More Myths and Facts: Macrobiotic Diets and Cancer

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We continue to answer more questions from our Diet and Cancer Myths and Facts Chat.

Q:  What is the Macrobiotic diet and does it prevent cancer?

A:  The Macrobiotic diet regimen originates from the Eastern philosophy of balancing foods to attain a balance – both physically and spiritually.  Early versions included stages which limited foods as they progressed, and the later stages were very restrictive.

Today, the Americanized version would be closer to a “flexitarian”(primarily vegetarian) plan.  There are some rules about specific foods including dairy, coffee alcohol and others.  This is a very brief summary:

1.            About ½ of food should be whole grains, especially brown rice

2.             1/4 to 1/3 of food to be vegetables (and seaweed)

3.            5- 10% Beans

4.            5-20% fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, miso soup

5.            1-2 cups/day of soup made from allowed ingredients listed above

Being  plant-based, a macrobiotic diet will be rich in cancer-fighting phytochemicals and other nutrients often lacking in most American diets.  And getting more vegetables, fruit, and beans is good idea; it’s what AICR recommends to reduce risk for many cancers.

Problems could include low intakes of vitamins D, B-12 and iron, protein, and calcium, so following this diet would require time, knowledge and careful planning.

There is no scientific evidence that the macrobiotic diet is any more effective in reducing cancer risk than AICR’s plant-based diet recommendations. If you are interested in following a macrobiotic diet, we recommend working with a Registered Dietitian who has experience planning vegetarian diets.

Have you ever known anyone who follows a macrobiotic diet?


    Author: Alice RD

    Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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