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Depression and Macrobiotic Diet

Written by sshowalter, ritasharma.

A Macrobiotic Diet is one that focuses on eating grains as a staple food and supplementing with other foods such as vegetables and beans. The diet insists that the person avoid highly refined foods, and that individual actually pay attention to how certain foods effect their health and well-being instead of blindly following diet rules. Nevertheless, macrobiotic guidelines can help in developing a sensitivity to the foods that promote health.1 Locally grown whole grain cereals, legumes, vegetables, seaweed, fermented soy products, fruit, beans, fish, nuts, seeds and some teas are some of the staple foods used in the diet. Consuming locally grown foods is also stressed. According to some macrobiotic theorists, all foods have qualities of both yin and yang present and combining certain foods best supports keeping the body in balance as well.2

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Effect of Macrobiotic Diet on Depression

As discussed in the Depression Diet Overview section, refraining from highly processed sugars and avoiding poor quality foods writ large, can be helpful in treating depression.

A major part of the macrobiotic philosophy is bringing awareness and attention to how specific foods affect the felt state of an individual. Instead of blindly following dietary "rules," macrobiotics emphasizes food quality affect health and wellness and therefore choosing less processed and more nutrient-dense foods will positively contribute to health.

Additionally, each food is individually thought to have "yin" and "yang" qualities, and that our western diet is often high in yangness (defined as foods which are dense, heavy, and hot) while we need to place more of an emphasis on yingness (defined as foods with light, cold and dark qualities.)3 Whole grains have the most balance between ying and yang qualities, and are therefore emphasized in a macrobiotic diet.

The most important part of making any dietary change to help treat depression, is remembering to self-assess whether or not the diet is working for you. You can try all kind of different, even opposing, dietary regimes, but ultimately your own subjective experience will tell you which foods leave you feeling the happiest and healthiest.

Read more details about Macrobiotic Diet.

How to Use Macrobiotic Diet

Whole grain cereal grains should make up around 40-60% of the diet. Vegetables: 25-30% Beans and legumes: 5-10% Miso, especially soup: 5% Sea vegetables: 5% Traditionally or naturally processed foods: 5-10%

Chewing all foods well is an important part of a macrobiotic diet as is eating foods that are locally grown and in-season. Which foods are considered in-season will change depending on the person's location, but generally speaking, spring and summer require foods that are lighter in quality, raw, and if cooked, cooked by steaming and for shorter amounts of time. Fall and winter foods should be denser (less water content), include root vegetables, consist of heavier grains and be cooked in oil and using more salt.

Many highly refined foods should be avoided, and other foods, considered highly yin in nature, are also said to exhaust the body. These include:

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Honey
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Refined flour products
  • Hot spices
  • Drugs
  • Chemicals and preservatives
  • Commercial milk, yogurt and soft cheeses
  • Poor quality vegetable oils

Other foods, considered highly yang, can give strength when eaten in moderation yet create stagnation when consumed in high quantities. These include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Refined Salt


  1. Kushi, Michio, with Alex Jack (1994). The Book of Macrobiotics. Japan Publications.
  2. Porter, Jessica (2004). The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics. Penguin Group.
  3. Porter, Jessica (2004). The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics. Penguin Group.

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