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Macrobiotic Diet vs Healthy Diet

The Standard Macrobiotic Diet (SMD) that is presented in the post Foods from a Macrobiotic Diet is the sort of diet that was taught since the mid 50’s by Michio Kushi and his collaborators. This diet is what I call Vintage Macrobiotics, and some macrobiotics students have continued teaching it to others.

In order to check the validity of the SMD currently, we can compare it to the guides that have been written by each country or by official organisms. In this case, I would like to compare it to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (8th edition).

I will be guided by the recommendations of the SMD, and I will compare them to the recommendations written in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

Let’s begin.



Standard Macrobiotic Diet Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Whole grains compromise at least half of every meal (50%). Flour products should be below 20 percent of the daily proportion of whole grains. Healthy eating pattern includes whole grains and limit the intake of refined grains and products made with refined grains, especially those high in saturated fats, added sugars, and/or sodium, such as cookies, cakes, and some snack foods. The recommended amount of grains is 6 ounce-equivalents per day. At least half of this amount should be whole grains.

They agree. Both the SMD and the DGA recommend whole grains, a bigger amount of grains and a smaller amount of products made with refined grains. Whole grains constitute an important part of the diet.


Standard Macrobiotic Diet  Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Soups, 1 or 2 bowls daily. Seasoned with a moderate amount of miso, tamari or sea salt. It mentions nothing about soups. It only explains not to worry about the high amount of sodium they may contain. For that reason, macrobiotics recommends a natural seasoning.


Standard Macrobiotic Diet   Dietary Guidelines for Americans
About one-quarter (25-30% of each meal) may include vegetables. One-third of your daily vegetable intake may be eaten as pickles and salad. Healthy eating patterns include a variety of vegetables from all of the five vegetable subgroups -dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other. These include all fresh, frozen, canned, and dried options in cooked or raw forms, including vegetable juices. The recommended amount of vegetables in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern and the 2000-calorie level is 2 1/2 cup-equivalents of vegetables per day.

They agree. The DGA does not exclude certain vegetables, and it does admit several sorts of vegetables (fresh, frozen, canned, and dried). I remember the SMD excludes systematically vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, and peppers.


Standard Macrobiotic Diet    Dietary Guidelines for Americans
About 5 to 10 percent of your daily diet may include cooked beans, bean products, and sea vegetables. Beans and bean products are included as “vegetables” on the DGA.

They agree on the beans consumption, but seaweeds are not mentioned in the DGA.


Standard Macrobiotic Diet Dietary Guidelines for Americans
1-2 times a week white fish or seafood, a small volume of roasted seeds, fruits from time to time, small amounts of rice syrup, barley malt or amazaké. -Fruits: Healthy eating patterns include fruits, especially whole fruits. Whole fruits include fresh, canned, frozen, and dried forms. The recommended amount of fruits is 2 cup-equivalents per day.
-Fish is included in the category of “Protein Food” in the Healthy eating pattern. This group includes seafood, meats, poultry, and eggs; and nuts, seeds, and soy products. The recommended weekly consumption is 8 ounces-equivalents of seafood per week, meat, poultry, and eggs is 26 ounce-equivalents per week. Nuts and seeds 1 1/2 ounce a day.
Healthy eating patterns limit added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories per day.

They do not agree because the DGA includes a bigger amount of all the above-mentioned foods, except for sweeteners, that are limited in both the SMD and the DGA. We need to highlight that the DGA offers a vegetarian pattern as well, in which meat and fish are excluded, and eggs (3 times a week) and dairy products (3 times a week) are included.


Standard Macrobiotic Diet Dietary Guidelines for Americans
It is recommended that spring or well water is used in the preparation of teas and other beverages. Recommended beverages: spring water, kukicha tea, rice tea, barley tea. Beverages that are calorie-free -especially water- or that contribute beneficial nutrients, such as fat-free and low-fat milk and 100% juice, should be the primary beverages consumed.

They agree on the use of water, but not in the recommendation about consuming milk and juice. The SMD excludes milk, and it recommends small amounts of fresh juice when the person is a healthy person and it is hot.


Standard Macrobiotic Diet Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Condiments may be used in moderate amounts to add a variety of flavors to foods and to provide additional nutrients. The following condiments may be used: Tamari soy sauce, sesame salt (gomashio), roasted sea vegetable powder, sesame seed powder, umeboshi plum, shio (salt) kombu, nori condiment, tekka, sauerkraut. It does not mention any recommendation about condiments, but it does about sodium consumption. Healthy eating patterns limit sodium to less than 2300 mg per day. This could be limiting the consumption of Japanese condiments that contain more sodium.

They agree on the recommendation of a limited use of condiments, but maybe the SMD exceeds the use of sodium.


Standard Macrobiotic Diet Dietary Guidelines for Americans
It is best to use only a moderate amount of high quality, cold pressed vegetable oil in cooking. Oils for regular use include: Sesame, dark sesame, and corn oil. The recommendations for oils in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern is 27 g (about 5 teaspoons) per day. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are more recommended than saturated fats. It is include: canola, corn, olive peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils.

They do not agree. The SMD recommends a smaller amount, 1 teaspoon (SMD) compared to 5 teaspoons (DGA). And the DGA allows more variety.


There is a general category that the DGA and other national guides include, but the SMD does not: dairy products.

Standard Macrobiotic Diet  Dietary Guidelines for Americans
No dairy products are recommended. Examples: cheese, butter, milk, yogurt, kefir, ice cream, cream, sour cream, whipped cream. Healthy eating patterns include fat-free and low-fat (1%) dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages (soymilk). The recommended amounts of dairy in the Healthy U.S. -Style Pattern are base on age rather than calorie level and are 2 cup-equivalents per day for children ages 2-3 years, 2 1/2 cup equivalent per day for children 4-8 years, and 3 cup-equivalents per day for adolescents ages 9-18 and adults

Regarding to dairy products, they do not agree.


When we compare the SMD to the DGA, we realise that they agree on many aspects. For example: whole grains, vegetables, less added sugars, beans, fish.

The main aspect that differentiates them is that the DGA includes more foods. The DGA recommends the consumption of dairy products, poultry, a bigger amount of fish, and it also accepts more formats than the SMD, as for example: frozen, canned or dried vegetables.

The official guides, such as the DGA, are designed by committees made up of experts, and therefore, from my point of view, they are valid. That is why, even if I admire and I am fascinated with vintage macrobiotics, the sort of macrobiotics that I use in my practice includes more foods. Sometimes, when the condition of the person needs it, I use a more strict version in short periods of time.


[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

[2] The material used to describe the Standard Macrobiotic Diet is coming from: Kushi, M. and Kushi A. (1986). Macrobiotic Child Care & Family Health. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, Inc.

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