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What Is The Macrobiotic Diet?

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The word "macrobiotic" stems from the Greek words meaning "long life". It espouses using whole grains, together with locally-produced vegetables and very little animal protein. It also promotes chewing the food very well to aid in better digestion.

This is not just a diet, the people who engage in this make being macrobiotic a lifestyle. It is one of the strictest dietary regimens found, as macrobiotic practitioners seek to integrate physical, spiritual and environmental health. The diet also emphasizes eating locally produced fruits and vegetables, making it not only healthy, but environmentally-sound as well.

The diet is based on the yin-yang aspects of food. Yang means that the food, while giving energy, is also stimulating. Yang foods are considered to have a hot and salty taste. Yin foods, on the other hand, are soothing. It also generally taste cold and sweet. The Macrobiotic diet tends to select foods that are in between yin and yang, the perfect examples of which are brown rice and water. One ascetic macrobiotic diet practitioner even espoused these two food items (is water even a food item?) as the only contents of the macrobiotic diet.

The diet is low in fat, high in fiber, and almost vegetarian (some experts even go out of their way to call it 'flexitarian', as animal protein is an afterthought in this diet, although it's not strictly vegan). It limits consumption of animal protein to twice a week, and mostly fish and seafood. Nuts and seeds you can also have as often as twice a week, and it should only be flavored with salt and lightly toasted. The diet also limits the kinds of oil allowed, primary of which is dark sesame oil, but sesame oil in general can be used, as well as corn or mustard seed oil.

Dessert lovers beware: this is not the diet for you. The macrobiotic diet doesn't allow artificial sweeteners, sugar, honey, chocolate, carob, etc. in its menu items. Some experts say that only healthy people should enjoy dessert, and not more than thrice a week. Only naturally sweet food like apples, dried fruit, and adzuki beans are acceptable in the dessert menu.

This is the normal percentages of food intake per day:

Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheatberry, buckwheat, millet and other grains) make up to 60% of the food. Other processed grains like rolled oats, pasta, bread and other baked goods can be eaten once in a while.

Vegetables (which include plants from the sea) take up as much as 30% of the daily intake. These must be cooked by boiling, steaming, baking or sautéing, but would be much better eaten raw. Some vegetables, like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers should be taken in moderation, as these are on the extreme of the yang spectrum.

Beans, especially soy beans, used as both food and flavor agent, take up as much as 10% of the diet,

Fish, nuts, seeds, fruits and soup made from the ingredients indicated above make up the rest of the dietary equation.

Macrobiotic diet purists also do not tolerate the use of vitamin supplements, deeming them artificial. This is problematic for most dietitians, as the macrobiotic diet is deficient in protein, even with the fish portion.

Practitioners claim that this diet, because of the lack of meat products, preservatives and saturated fats, is the best way to prevent cancer. Doctors refute this, because even some family members of Michio Kushi (said to have popularized the macrobiotic diet in the US) have suffered from cancer, even after long years of doing the macrobiotic diet.

Does it work as a weight loss diet? Yes, it does. A lot of people have taken this route to attain their weight goals. Is it healthy to sustain this diet for a long period of time? Maybe not.

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