what is this exactly? I did a search but didn't have time to dig through everything. I remember Gwyneth Paltrow being on it and something about no sugar but that's about it. Does anyone here do this and care to explain? TIA
Invented by George Ohsawa, the macrobiotic diet is based on traditional Chinese medicine ideas about the energy in foods, with a lot of emphasis on balancing yin and yang foods. (Of course Ohsawa and his followers including Michio Kushi have different ideas about what is yin and what is yang than a lot of TCM people.) Macrobiotics is largely based on the traditional Japanese diet. Macrobiotic diets are supposed to be 50-60% whole grains, 5-10% soup, 25-30% vegetables, and 10% beans and sea vegetables.
Macrobiotic diets are not supposed to include strong yang foods like refined salt, eggs, meat, hard cheese, chicken and poultry, shellfish or red meat fish (like salmon.) They are not supposed to include strong yin foods like white rice or white flour, frozen or canned food, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, mangoes, bananas, dairy products, refined oils, spices, coffee, tea or mint tea, honey or sugar, alcohol. Bread is okay but only if it's sourdough, they don't like baker's yeast. It's a mostly vegetarian diet, but some macrobiotic diets include a limited amount of fresh white-fleshed fish. They don't eat much fruit.
The Japanese cultural influence on this diet is obvious in the use of miso and sea vegetables, gomashio, and green tea.
The pluses of the diet: meals are really pretty (some of that is also Japanese cultural influence, but there is an emphasis on that.) The food is good. You eat only fresh vegetables and prepare them carefully, and that's really tasty and pleasant and healthful. Macrobiotics encourages people to eat local food. You eat slowly in a ritualistic way. It's high in fiber and very low fat. People who take on macrobiotics often lose a lot of weight (which is only good if you want to lose weight!) Many people who do it are enthusiastic about it. I've met at least one person who believed that she had put her cancer into remission on this diet.
The negatives: like many extreme diets, macrobiotics isolates you from other people who are not eating that way. Since it's less popular than it used to be, there aren't as many macrobiotic restaurants, etc. Adherents make health claims that I don't think have been proven. Michio Kushi's wife Aveline Kushi died of cancer, which I think is pretty ironic considering that she was actively promoting macrobiotics as an anti-cancer diet. (Ironic but also sad.)
I think there is a lot to learn from macrobiotics. I have gotten some good cooking techniques from macrobiotic cookbooks.