THE MACROBIOTIC DIET
Macrobiotics comes from Greek roots and means "long life". The macrobiotic diet is a low-fat, high fiber diet that is mostly vegetarian-based and emphasizes consuming whole grains and vegetables and avoiding highly processed and refined foods. There is also an emphasis on consuming foods that are organic, in season, and locally grown. In addition, the macrobiotic diet emphasizes the use of soy products – which are abundant in phyto-estrogens. Specific dietary guidelines are individualized based on factors such as climate, season, age, gender, activity, health needs, and whether a food is considered yin or yang in its effect on the body. The yin or yang principle (originating in China) is based on the idea of balance - both in the body and in life. Macrobiotics holds that some foods are over stimulating and can exhaust the body and mind. These are classified as extreme yin (stimulating) in their effects. Foods that are considered to be concentrated, heavy and dense create stagnation. These have yang (strengthening, but stagnating) effects, if over-consumed. From the macrobiotic standpoint, yin and yang forces must be kept in balance to achieve good health. Consequently, food items that do not have pronounced yin or yang qualities should dominate the diet; specifically whole grains & vegetables, while extremely yin or extremely yang foods should be minimized or avoided. Examples of extremely yang food items include: meat, poultry, refined sea salt, firm dairy products, and eggs. Extremely yin food items include: sugar, alcohol, honey, coffee, chocolate, soft dairy products and tropical fruits.
The Macrobiotic diet consists of: approximately 55% whole grains – including barley, brown rice, buckwheat, and millet; 25% vegetables including detoxifying vegetables, such as: ginger, wasabi, and horseradish, with about 2/3 of them lightly cooked and 1/3 raw;10% comes from beans or bean products, such as soy-based food including: natto, tofu and tempeh; as well as soups or broths from beans (i.e., miso soup, which is soy based). The remaining 10% consists of a variety of occasionally eaten foods, such as: small amounts of fish; nut and seeds; toasted sesame oil, to eat with raw vegetables and for light cooking; condiments and spices, such as: umeboshi plums and vinegar, shoyu, brown rice vinegar, raw sea salt, fermented pickles, gomashio (roasted sesame seeds), scallions, and sea vegetables, including roasted seaweed; and occasionally dessert foods (if in good health), consisting of naturally sweet foods, such as: adzuki beans, apples, dried fruit, squash, and some of the more naturally-derived sweeteners such as: amazake (a fermented rice drink), barley malt and rice syrup. 
The macrobiotic diet and philosophy were developed by a Japanese educator named George Ohsawa, who believed that simplicity was is key to optimal health. The diet Ohsawa recommended included ten progressively restrictive stages. The last stage of Ohsawa's macrobiotic diet consisted only of brown rice and water. Due to its extreme restriction, Ohsawa's version of the macrobiotic diet is no longer recommended by macrobiotic diet counselors. Michio Kushi expanded on Ohsawa's macrobiotic theory and opened the Kushi Institute in Boston in 1978. Together with his wife, Aveline, he published many books on macrobiotics and was responsible for popularizing the diet in North America. 
Pros: Similar to the vegetarian diet, predominantly plant-based diets as with the macrobiotic diet (with only some animal products) may have some health benefits including the fact that it does not contain any or as much cholesterol and generally contains less saturated fats than animal-based diets. It is high in fiber mainly due to the higher intake of whole grains & vegetables. Additionally, the emphasis on the consumption of organic, minimally processed, whole, natural plant foods means that one may ingest more micronutrients and fewer toxins (i.e., color and flavor additives, preservatives, unnecessary hormones, and other ‘unnatural’ chemicals) in their body. Since the macrobiotic diet can be high in phyto-estrogens from the consumption of soy products, some health experts believe that this high soy diet may help to balance out certain female hormones and therefore help reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause, and help prevent breast cancer and endometriosis. Soy’s genistein isoflavone content has also been found to be anti-angiogenic, meaning that it may block the proliferation of blood vessels to cancer cells.  There is also some scientific research [by K S Weber, K D R Setchell1, D M Stocco2 and E D Lephart] for men that a diet rich in soy phyto-estrogens may also help to alleviate prostate enlargement (or BPH) and its symptoms. 
Cons: The macrobiotic diet, again as with vegetarian and vegan diets, in certain situations and with certain individuals, may be too restrictive and lacking in certain nutrients, such as: vitamins B2, B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D; calcium, heme iron, DHA & EPA omega 3 fatty acids, and protein. As in vegetarian and vegan diets, the amino acids pool (the building blocks of protein) present in a macrobiotic diet may not be as balanced as the amino acid pool obtained from protein from animal sources. 
Also, on the flip side of soy, there is some evidence that the over-consumption of soy phyto-estrogens (greater than 30 mg./day) which are commonly and abundantly found in many U.S. soy foods and supplements today, such as: soy protein powders, soy burgers, soy milk, soy flour, etc., may not be very good for us. Soy is potentially a highly allergenic food as well. It contains a large amount of what is referred to as ‘anti-nutrients’, such as: protease (enzyme) inhibitors, which can inhibit the digestion of dietary proteins; phytates, which can strongly inhibit the absorption of calcium, iron amd zinc. It is also a goitrogenic food, meaning it can block the absorption of iodine in to the thyroid gland and thus block the production of thyroid hormones. In order to make soy more digestible, manufactures of soy products sometimes heat soy extracts to very high temperatures which in turn may cause the protein structures to become unnatural or cross-linked, which can then cause our body’s digestive system to not recognize these protein structures as well. In turn, digestion of these soy products becomes more difficult.
However, possibly sprouting and fermenting soy may reduce many, but not all, of these anti-nutrients and therefore make soy products more digestible and thus more nutritious. Examples of these products, some of which are fortunately consumed in the macrobiotic diet, include: miso, natto, tempeh, soy yogurts, and a protein powder called, Jarrow’s: Fermented Soy Essence.
The bottom line is that if one is going to practice a vegetarian, a vegan, or a macrobiotic diet, a person needs to make sure that they are receiving enough complete protein (all the amino acids required, in the correct proportions for human beings) as well as all of the necessary micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.). If while on these diets you rely on soy products as a protein source, it is recommended to keep your intake to no more than 25 grams of soy protein/day or 30mg of isoflavones/day  and that you incorporate other vegetarian protein sources into your diet, such as other easier digesting legumes ( i.e., adzuki beans, black-eyed peas and green peas in particular) along with some grains such as: amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa (relatively higher protein content than most grains), millet; and/or some nuts and seeds, including: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, which also contain valuable minerals, such as magnesium and zinc. In addition, perhaps try to incorporate very high quality (especially when combined together), hypo- allergenic, concentrated, vegetarian protein supplements, such as: rice, pea, and/or raw hemp protein powders as well as sprouted raw flaxseed powder. In addition, raw hemp protein powder and sprouted raw flaxseed powders can also provide some other key nutrients, such as: live enzymes; ALA ( alpha linolenic acid) omega 3 fatty acids, which can be converted to the essential omega 3’s DHA & EPA if other micronutrients (i.e., the B vitamins, minerals, etc.) are present; and a lot of fiber.
John Freidstein, CN