What Is The Macrobiotic Diet – And Can It Help You Lose Weight?

by | Jun 20, 2023 | Weight Loss

Images by Gavin Arnold Gooman from Drawn to Light Productions

Rooted in Japanese culture, the macrobiotic diet espouses the Asian yin-yang philosophy and is all about bringing balance to your plate, and by extension, your body. It’s also endorsed by celebs like Ariana Grande, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting. If you like whole grains and soup or are looking to try something new, this is the diet for you.

Meet The Expert: Carla Chait is dietician and expert in macrobiotic eating

The history of the macrobiotic diet

The macrobiotic diet started in the 19th century. “Sagen Ishizuka, a Japanese army doctor trained in Western medicine during this time, became disillusioned with his craft when he was unable to cure himself of his own ailments using the allopathic approach to healing,” says Chait. He started experimenting with diet and postulated that the balance between potassium and sodium in the body is the foundation of health. He called for a rejection of the foundations of the Western diet (meat, sugar and dairy) and wanted a return to the traditional Japanese diet that prizes miso soup, brown rice, pickles and seaweed. “Ishizuka healed many patients with his approach to diet and health and became famous throughout Tokyo as the ‘Anti-Doctor Doctor’,” says Chait.

So… what is the macrobiotic diet?

You don’t need to buy the entire Japanese grocery store to get the benefits. The diet focuses on whole grains, legumes, vegetables and yes, seaweed as the principal foods, says Chait. Added to that are white-meat fish, nuts and fruits.

What can you expect on the macrobiotic diet?

While you’d be mistaken for thinking the diet, while being whole foods focused, is just a dolled-up vegetarian diet, you’d be wrong. Key differences include its ideological and energetic bases. The idea is that by eating the right foods, you can powerfully affect your health and well-being. Prized is food that is locally grown, less processed and options low in saturated fats.

“People eating a Macrobiotic diet can expect increased physical stamina and mental clarity,” says Chait. “Eating whole foods gives one a ‘whole’ or expansive view of the world. Eating Macrobiotically not only changes one’s health then but also changes one’s life.”

Will it help you lose weight?

Since the diet prizes fibre and downplays fat content, you could very well shed kilos. “A high-fibre diet ensures that the digestive system is toned and functioning properly, while also stabilizing blood sugar,” says Chait. “The fat sources in the diet are largely mono- and polyunsaturated, which is good for heart health. Eating Macrobiotically will improve one’s overall health and ensure that energy is flowing smoothly through the body so that excess weight is discharged.”

Who does it work best for?

Well, since most dietary recommendations prize the upping of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, it comes as no surprise that this diet will work well for pretty much anybody. “The diet is especially helpful for those who have had a lifetime of poor food choices, leading to stagnation and disease,” says Chait. “For those, the diet is truly miraculous in restoring health and well-being.” Research backs this up. One study showed that macrobiotic diet can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, leading authors to think that it might be a great diet for people dealing with cardiovascular problems. Another study posited that it’s a diet associated with decreased cancer rates. In cancer patients, macrobiotic diet has been known anecdotally to yield results and is associated with decreased cancer risk. However, more research is needed to confirm the benefits of this diet on cancer.

And it works for women, too. “Women consuming macrobiotic diets have modestly lower circulating oestrogen levels, suggesting a lower risk of breast cancer. This may be due in part to the high phytoestrogen content of the macrobiotic diet,” one study’s authors noted.

Any supplementation required?

Per one study, there’s a decrease in vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium with people on the diet. But compared to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, this diet outperformed in terms of being anti-inflammatory and health-giving.

Try these two recipes from dietician Carla Chait to get in on macrobiotic eating.

Miso soup

Miso soup with daikon and shiitake

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Japanese


  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tsp dried wakame leaves
  • Water for the soup
  • 1.5 cups halved and sliced daikon radish
  • 1 tbsp barley miso
  • handful chopped spring onion for garnish


  • Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of water for 10 minutes to soften, remove the stems, and slice thinly.
  • Soak the dried wakame leaves in a little water for 5 minutes to reconstitute and slice the leaves into small pieces.
  • Place the sliced mushroom, wakame pieces, and the sliced daikon radish into a pot and add 3 cups of water.
  • Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.
  • Purée the miso paste in a bowl with a little of the soup broth and then return the miso purée to the soup, stirring gently.
  • Simmer, uncovered, for a further 3 minutes.
  • Garnish each bowl of soup with chopped spring onion.
Keyword miso soup, soup
fried rice with tofu and vegetables

Fried rice with tofu and vegetables

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese, Healthy, Japanese


  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup quartered and sliced carrots
  • 1 cup crumbled tofu
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp soya sauce
  • chopped parsley for garnish


  • Heat the oil in a frying pan.
  • Add the onion, celery, and carrot and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the crumbled tofu.
  • Layer the rice over the vegetable and tofu mixture and pour the water down the side of the pan.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the soy sauce and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  • Garnish each serving of fried rice with chopped parsley.
Keyword fried rice, healthy fried rice

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