Skip to Content

Macrobiotic Diet 101 | How to Start a Macrobiotic Diet

Learn the basics of the macrobiotic diet ➤ How to adopt a macrobiotic diet ➤ Macrobiotic Recipes ➤ Macrobiotic Nutrition and Lifestyle Principles ➤

Table of contents:

  1. What is the macrobiotic diet?
  2. Macrobiotic diet basics
  3. Macrobiotic Books and eBooks
  4. Macrobiotic Foods – what to eat and what to avoid
  5. Yin and Yang in the macrobiotic diet
  6. Macrobiotic nutrition and lifestyle principles
  7. Macrobiotic recipes

As you may have heard, 10 days ago I started the Ohsawa diet (George Ohsawa’s brown rice diet) in order to cleanse and purify my body. I needed it badly. I was super cranky all the time, over-stressed and everything annoyed me. So, I thought a good detox will cure all that.

I heard about the Ohsawa diet and decided to give it a try. Of course, I was a bit skeptical at first as I never considered cereals to be that good for your health and I was actually afraid I’ll gain weight by eating all those carbs. Well, I was wrong. I lost 4kg. I had 57kg when I started this and now I have 53kg. For a long time I wanted to achieve this weight goal but as I told you before, diets aren’t really my thing. I didn’t even put an effort into it.

I heard that the Ohsawa diet is great because it also helps you achieve the ideal weight. For example, if you are overweight you can actually lose up to 1kg each day until you have a normal weight, If you have a normal weight you will maintain it and if you are underweight you’ll actually gain weight. The wonderful thing is that you don’t have to starve yourself. You can eat as much as you need. You’ll feel full after small portions anyway.

The 10-days Ohsawa diet is hard to keep at first. You have to eat only cereals, like brown rice, whole wheat, millet, and buckwheat, for 10 days. You’ll crave other stuff too. For example, I craved fruits and veggies the first days but managed to keep the diet until the end. The cravings will disappear after the 3rd day or so.

I decided to begin a macrobiotic diet, actually more like a macrobiotic lifestyle. I think it’s a wonderful diet and I really believe in its principles. I also found so many great macrobiotic recipes and I was amazed by how delicious they look. I can’t wait to give them a try. Now that I’ve shared with you my personal Ohsawa experience with the George Oshawa diet (which I strongly recommend!!) I will also tell you everything you need to know how to begin a macrobiotic lifestyle / macrobiotic Japanese diet. 

Do you want a personalized macrobiotic meal plan / macrobiotic diet plan? Check out my meal planner! >>>

About the Macrobiotic Diet – What is a macrobiotic diet?

The macrobiotic diet first appeared around the end of the last century, when a Japanese army doctor (Sagen Ishizuka) established a theory of nutrition and medicine based on the traditional Oriental diet. He suffered from multiple illnesses and studied both Western and Eastern medicine.

He then compiled the information and his conclusions in two books Chemical Theory of Longevity and Diet For Health. Ishizuka criticized the adoption of the Western modern medicine and nutrition principles, and strongly recommended the Japanese traditional diet – whole, unrefined foods, with almost no animal foods.

Suffering multiple “incurable” diseases from a young age, George Ohsawa learned about the macrobiotic diet from two of Mr. Ishizuka’s disciples and managed to completely restore his health. He then wrote more than 300 books and articles about the macrobiotic diet. 

Macrobiotic Diet Basics

What does macrobiotic mean?

The word macrobiotic comes from “macro” which means big and “bios” which means “life”. So,  macrobiotics can be also called the art of a great life. Macrobiotics is not actually a diet and it’s more a way of life. It includes also the spiritual part of living and it teaches us to see the bigger picture, to consider the ups and downs in life as gifts given to us in order to become better beings.

How to start a macrobiotic diet?

One of the important nutrition principles in the macrobiotic diet involves consuming macrobiotic food that is rich in nutrients and has balanced yin/yang properties. The macrobiotic diet contains macrobiotic foods like whole grains, beans and bean products (like tofu), organic vegetables (local and in season), soups, sea vegetables, desserts (sweetened with rice syrup, barley malt, fruit and sometimes maple syrup), a little fish, a little fruit, pickles, condiments, nuts, seeds and non-aromatic teas.

However, having a macrobiotic lifestyle doesn’t mean you’ll never eat chocolate again or never have a margarita! 🙂 Of course, you can have a nice slice of chocolate cake from time to time or indulge yourself with a delicious alcoholic cocktail. The important thing is to always remember that moderation is key. 

Do you want a personalized macro diet plan? Check out my meal planner! >>>

Books and Ebooks about the Macrobiotic Diet

I strongly recommend you to read these books to find out more about the macrobiotic way and the meaning of macrobiotic. I absolutely loved them and I think they’re very useful if you want to start a macro diet.

The first book you should read is Zen Macrobiotics by George Ohsawa. Zen Macrobiotics book makes it very easy to understand and you’ll love the way it is written. It offers you the basic knowledge you need in order to change your diet.

The second book I recommend is The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health: A Complete Guide to Naturally Preventing and Relieving More Than 200 Chronic Conditions and Disorders by Michio Kushi and Alex Jack. This one is very useful if you want to treat existing illnesses.

And last but not least, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchfordwhich is more like an encyclopedia rather than a simple book. I LOVE it! It offers absolutely everything you need to know about healthy eating, whole foods and more. It is golden! I haven’t finished reading it all yet. It’s that kind of book you’ll get back to every time you want to know something.

Free ebook:

Kushi Macrobiotic Dietary Recommendations (English) 

The Macrobiotic Meal | Macrobiotic Foods | Macrobiotic Cooking

Macrobiotic Diet Food List / Macrobiotic Food

1. Grains. Grains are the basis of a macrobiotic meal. Grains should make up 50-60% of your meal. Brown and wild rice, barley, millet, whole wheat etc. are recommended.

2. Vegetables. Veggies are the next most important part of your macro meal. Cooked and raw veggies should make up at least 30% of your plate. Leafy greens are macrobiotic vegetables that are strongly recommended (except spinach which is very yin and should be occasionally consumed). Local and in-season veggies are also preferred. When eating you’ll have to keep in mind the yin/yang properties of certain vegetables. This is not hard to learn.

3. Beans. Beans, especially fermented bean products like tempeh and miso are important to your meal. Beans should be about 10% of your meal. Tempeh, whole beans or legumes like lentils, chickpeas and more should be on your plate. Tofu is also a good choice as it contains natural probiotics and aids digestion.

4. Fruit. This may be a shock to you but actually, fruits should rarely be eaten in a macro diet. They’re perfect as snacks or desserts but should not be eaten more than 3 times a week. Tropical foods, like bananas or pineapple, should be avoided.

5. Sea Vegetables (Seaweeds). Another important part of your macro meal would be are sea veggies. Dulse, kelp, kombu, arame and more are healthy choices for your meal. Sea veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals and excellent for health.

6. Soup. Soups are a very important part of a well-balanced macro diet and should be eaten daily. Soups that contain grains, veggies, sea veggies and beans are an ideal macro meal in a bowl. Miso soups are pretty popular.

7. Fermented Foods. Tempeh is ideal but you can also try pickled veggies which bring lots of good probiotics in your diet.

8. Condiments/Oils. Oils like sesame oil and corn oil are the best (be careful, corn oil mustn’t be GMO) Miso paste, sea salt, brown rice vinegar, tamari, tahini, brown rice syrup, veggie broth, dried mushrooms etc. are also welcome.

9. Fish. The macrobiotic diet allows you to eat white meat fish 1-3 times a week. Of course, if you are vegan or vegetarian you can just skip it, it will not affect the diet in any way.

10. Whole Foods. The less processed foods are, the better. This is one of the most important principles in the macro diet.

Macrobiotic food pyramid

Macrobiotic Diet Food Pyramid

Image from the book of Michio Kushi.

For a better understanding of the macrobiotic diet, here are the three categories of macro foods, from most frequent to less frequent.

1. Main foods: whole grains, veggies, beans

2. Secondary foods: fruits, beverages (teas, veggie juices), oils, nuts, seeds, fish

3. Pleasure foods: Eat whatever you want, in moderation.

Best to avoid foods in the macro diet

  • Any food containing white, brown, or any other refined sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Fruit juice
  • Milk, cheese, cream, butter, ghee, yogurt, and ice cream
  • Refined Oils
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Heavy use of spices
  • White rice and white flour
  • Foods containing chemicals, preservatives, dyes, and insecticides 

Here is a list of Yin and Yang foods. As stated above, it is best to consume foods that have a balanced Yin/Yang energy. Extreme and very Yin and Yang foods should be avoided. Yin and Yang Food Chart

Do you need a macrobiotic meal plan with delicious macrobiotic recipes? Check out the meal planner app I created! >>>

Macrobiotic Principles | Yin and Yang in the Macro Diet

Yin and Yang Balance

Source: | I tried to find the author of the drawing but failed. If you know who created this, please contact me so I can credit him/her.

Yin and Yang are at the base of the macrobiotic diet. As Wiki says, in Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang is used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as female and male, dark and light, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, life and death and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept.

In the macrobiotic diet, it is believed that if we eat foods that are whole, local and in season, our bodies will get the ideal yin and yang needed. It is also encouraged not to eat foods that are either too yin or too yang as it may disturb our inner balance. The perfect foods to consume in macrobiotics are the ones which have a good yin/yang balance. Yin attracts disease; a body with too much yin energy is an ill body. Yang on the other way cures the disease but is interrelated with the Yin energy of the body. A balanced body is a healthy one.

The real life pyramid

Source: | I tried to find the author of the image but failed. If you know who created this, please contact me so I can credit him/her.

Macrobiotic nutrition principles

  • Enjoy eating and be thankful for your meals.
  • Eat seasonal and local foods.
  • Be mindful of quantity and quality.
  • Avoid dietary extremes.
  • Chew your food thoroughly.
  • Reduce the volume of what you eat. 

Macrobiotic lifestyle principles

  • Be generous.
  • Be responsible and admit faults.
  • Discover life via personal experience.
  • Develop your intuition.
  • Be friendly.
  • Respect all living beings.
  • Be mindful of ecology.
  • Practice economy of life.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Practice self-reflection.
  • Perfect the art of living.

Macrobiotic Recipes | Macrobiotic Meals | Recipes for Macro Diet

I recently created a new PinBoard on Pinterest with macrobiotic recipes for beginners. There are so many delicious and healthy macrobiotic meals you can try. Take a look at these Japanese macrobiotic recipes and if you want, follow me. 😉

Macrobiotic Recipes PinBoard

Macrobiotic recipes Pinterest Board Gourmandelle

Do you want delicious, healthy, macrobiotic recipes created just for you? Check this out! >>>

Macrobiotic Blogs I Like

(I will update this list every time I find a new blog. Suggestions are very appreciated!)

She Cooks Macro

The MacroChef

Looking forward to reading your comments and your opinions on this! Also, if you have tried macrobiotics before please share your story with us! Thanks!! 

Priscilla Kelly

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

I was macrobiotic for a few years and you do get thin


Saturday 9th of December 2017

Just wanted to let everyone know that Michio Kushi's grand daughter is now working on teaching how to cook macrobiotic foods with a modern twist to it. She has her own website if you google her, I highly recommend her!


Tuesday 20th of February 2018

What is her name I can't seem to find her through google


Friday 15th of December 2017

Thanks, Anna! :)


Thursday 16th of November 2017

Hi everyone,

I would like to share with you some of my Mom's experiences in the past few years. First of all, we thanks one of her friends introduced her the "Oshawa diet method". Otherwise, she would have died long time ago. My Mom was really sick. She could not breath properly, exhausted all the time, so many symptom of which 6 doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her and they gave up. Finally, her friend recommended her to try Oshawa Diet Method. There are 7 diet levels that you should follow. The most difficult one was strictly eating only Brown Rice and sesame seeds with a little salt for at least 10 days, drink just a little pure water. We were so worried of seeing her kept losing weight....But miracle happened, on the 5th day she sit up slowly and walked around the house without help. The 10th day she talked and washed dishes ...Now she is 84 yrs old living healthy. Since then, we followed her diet method and it can cure almost any kind of diseases I believed so. For more information, please go on line searching for "Oshawa diet" it is part of Macrobiotics diet as well. Good luck !


Thursday 17th of February 2022

@Julie, Wonderful inspiring story, so happy you shared with everyone, and even better that your Mother is healed. Can't wait to start the diet very soon....


Saturday 25th of November 2017

Hi, Julie!

Thank you for sharing your mom's story with us! :) I am so happy the macrobiotic diet has helped your mom! It's amazing! I used to keep the Ohsawa diet once a year but I stopped, don't know why. Your story inspired me to do it again, as a prevention. Thank you!


Thursday 28th of September 2017

You are so awesome! I don't think I've read through anything like that before. So wonderful to discover somebody with unique thoughts on this subject. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is required on the web, someone with some originality!


Wednesday 25th of October 2017

Thank you, Roxie! :*

Elizabeth Getty

Tuesday 18th of July 2017

I have lupus.liver disease.sceroderma and now pulmonary arterial hypertension.would this diet help


Wednesday 16th of August 2017

Hi, Elizabeth! Any healthy diet helps, but it's best if you ask your doctor.