The Macrobiotic Diet

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

What is a macrobiotic diet?

Macrobiotic diets combine the concepts of Buddhist spirituality and certain dietary principles with the goal of balancing spiritual and physical wellness. Macrobiotic diets aim to avoid the "toxins" that come from eating dairy products, meats, and oily foods. A macrobiotic diet consists largely of whole grains, cereals, and cooked vegetables.

Are macrobiotic diets overly restrictive?

Early versions of macrobiotic diets could be quite extreme, for example, requiring the consumption of only cooked whole grains and limited beverages. Currently, macrobiotic counselors do not recommend these extremely restrictive diets. A specific macrobiotic diet prescription is determined for an individual, taking into account his or her age, sex, level of physical activity, and native climate.

Is the concept of macrobiotics a recent development?

The macrobiotic philosophy and diet were first described by the Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa, who began teaching his philosophies of health and dieting in the 1930s. In the 1960s, the philosophy of macrobiotics was brought to the US. Interest in the diet increased in the 1980s following a book written by physician Anthony Sattilaro, who believed that a macrobiotic diet helped treat his own prostate cancer.

Are there health benefits associated with macrobiotic diets?