Diets Deconstructed – Macrobiotic diet

Moving on from our discussion of the Atkins diet previously we now move on to discuss a much more intensive and philosophical diet plan – the macrobiotic diet.

Hardcore fans of this particular diet include Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna – both of whom credit their fabulous physique and age-defying looks to this particular programme.  For those who choose to follow this diet they must take a zen, philosophical attitude towards food.

Gwyneth macrobiotic diet

The macrobiotic philosophy and diet was created and developed by George Ohsawa, a Japanese educator who believed that simplicity was essential to having a healthy diet and living a long life.  His plan recommended ten stages each of which became increasingly restrictive, so much so that Michio Kushi further developed Ohsawa’s macrobiotic diet plan to be more accessible in the 70s and was largely responsible for the diet gaining popularity in North America.

In the simplest terms a macrobiotic diet is predominantly a vegetarian diet that is low-fat and high in fibre – so lots of whole grains and vegetables are essential.

A typical macrobiotic diet could consist of the following:

  • 50-60% Whole grains
  • 25-30% Vegetables
  • 5-10% Beans
  • 5-20% Fish, nuts, seeds, fruits

Many people rave about the diet plan – with its emphasis on foods that are lacking in today’s Western world – being low in saturated fat and high in phytoestrogens many people believe this diet helps balance female hormones (an attractive concept to those of us with PCOS) however scientific research to back up such claims is still lacking.  However the diet is considered by many nutritionists to be too restrictive – lacking in essential nutrients such as protein, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and calcium (all of which are essential to keeping PCOS symptoms under control too) – some people find that following this diet can result in a distinct lack of energy, however others credit the diet to a renewed sense of health and wellbeing.  As with any diet this will depend on each individual and their needs – we all react differently to things and need to find a diet that it suitable for us.

macrobiotic diet

Macrobiotic rules and restrictions:

  • Whole grains (brown rice, barley, rye, corn, buckwheat etc.) need to make up 50-60% of each meal.
  • One or two bowls of soup to be eaten each day (particularly Miso or Shoyu soup both made from soybeans).
  • Vegetables should make up 25-30% of your daily food intake – vegetables should raw, steamed, boiled, baked or sautéed.
  • There is an emphasis on beans which should make up 10% of your daily food intake (this can include tofu, tempeh and natto).
  • Animal products are generally avoided in such a diet – a small amount of seafood is allowed several times a week, whereas meat, poultry, eggs and dairy are avoided.
  • Seeds and nuts are also allowed only in moderation.
  • There are restrictions placed on fruit also – only local fruit can be consumed several times a week (for example apples, pears, peaches, apricots, grapes, berries, melons etc.) whereas tropical fruit should be avoided.

The macrobiotic diet is one that is personalised to each individual and is dependent upon gender, age, health, season and lifestyle in the attempt to provide the best plan possible.

So what are your thoughts: perhaps you’ve tried living a macrobiotic lifestyle?  Do you think this is a sustainable way of living or is it indeed too restrictive?  Is this a realistic diet for those of us who are Hollywood celebrities? And more importantly is this something that is beneficial for PCOS management?

**As with all diet plans the results vary from person to person, I am no doctor so to find out more about if a plan is suitable for you before you begin be sure to talk to your GP or a nutritionist to see if it is right for you.**

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