Monday, May 25, 2009

Macrobiotic Diet Shown to Prevent Cancer

(NaturalNews) Macrobiotic is a word derived from Greek roots and means "long life". A macrobiotic diet combines simplicity in eating and avoidance of toxins in food with Buddhist Zen principles. Because of it's emphasis of nutrient-rich, whole foods the macrobiotic diet has been of interest in prevention of cancer.

A macrobiotic diet is a low-fat, high-fiber diet with an emphasis on whole grains and vegetables. Followers of a macrobiotic diet avoid meat, animal fats such as butter and lard, dairy products, eggs, artificial sweeteners, and chemical additives. The diet is made up of whole grains (brown rice, millet, buckwheat, wheat, corn, rye), vegetables, beans (and bean products such as tofu), sea vegetables (nori, kombu, hiziki), and smaller amounts of fruit, seeds, nuts, and white fish. Preferably these foods are organic, locally grown, and whole or very minimally processed. Vegetables such as avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, asparagus, and beets are discouraged.

Cooking food in accordance with a macrobiotic diet must be done with utensils made from materials such as wood, glass, enamel, and stainless steel. Cooking with microwaves and electricity is discouraged, as are dietary supplements.

Research is focusing on the benefits of a macrobiotic diet in the prevention of cancer. Because of the emphasis on soy products, a macrobiotic diet is high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived estrogens that have been found to have health benefits including potential reduction in breast cancer and prostate cancer. A study published in the Journal Cancer Research compared women eating a macrobiotic diet with women eating a typical American diet and found that those following a macrobiotic diet had lower levels of blood estradiol levels. Research has shown a link between high estradiol levels and breast cancer.

Besides the benefits from phytoestrogens, eating a diet low in fat and high in fiber, such as the macrobiotic diet, also helps lower cancer risk. The limitations placed on certain foods such as animal fats, eggs, and dairy also decrease risk for cancers such as colorectal, ovarian, and prostate cancer. In addition, emphasis on organic foods decreases pesticide exposure which has also been shown to be associated with cancer.

Because of the restrictive nature of a macrobiotic diet, it must be followed with extreme care to ensure that nutrient requirements are met. A macrobiotic diet, with its focus on low-fat, high-fiber foods as well as including foods high in phytoestrogens is effective in decreasing risk of cancer.

The diet consists of five categories of foods (with recommended weight percentage of total food consumed):

  • Whole cereal grains (40%-60%), including brown rice, barley, millet, oats, wheat, corn, rye, and buckwheat; and other less common grains and products made from them, such as noodles, bread, and pasta.
  • Vegetables (20%-30%), including smaller amounts of raw or pickled vegetables--preferably locally grown and prepared in a variety of ways.
  • Beans (5%-10%), such as azuki, chickpeas, or lentils; other bean products, such as tofu, tempeh, or natto.
  • Regular consumption of sea vegetables, such as nori, wakame, kombu, and hiziki--cooked either with beans or as separate dishes.
  • Foods such as fruit, white fish, seeds, and nuts--to be consumed a few times per week or less often.