Macrobiotic Diet vs Paleo Diet: What’s the Difference?

Strawberry Spinach Salad
Our favorite Strawberry Spinach Salad

Well, since we began our un-frugal practice of juicing at the beginning of the year, we have, quite by accident, delved into a world of clean eating.  Before our juicing experiment, we had a pretty balanced diet, compared to most Americans, that is.  We balanced eating processed food with eating whole foods, kept sugar to a minimum and always drank plenty of water.  We liked our balance.  It felt like we got to have our cake and eat it too, so to speak.  

As I mentioned in this post, juicing started out to be more of a chore than a blessing.  I had to strongarm gentle convince the kids to drink their mean green juice a few times a week, promising them happier health if they’d obey.  Then a funny thing happened on the way to healthier living: the kids started to love their mean green juice.  Anarchy would ensure if we were out of juicing ingredients.  The kids were, as were we, loving the benefits of juicing.  Our heads were clearer, our emotions were mellow and stable.  This is probably TMI, but our systems began to get nice and regular. 🙂

So we started researching more about different types of healthy eating and what they involved.  Today I’m going to talk about the difference between the macrobiotic diet vs the paleo diet.  Here’s how Wikipedia describes the two:

The Macrobiotic Diet

A macrobiotic diet (or macrobiotics), is a dietary regimen which involves eating grains as a staple food, supplemented with other foods such as local vegetables, and avoiding the use of highly processed or refined foods and most animal products.

The Paleo Diet

The paleolithic diet, also known as the paleo diet or caveman diet, is a diet based on the food humans’ ancient ancestors might likely have eaten, such as lean meat, nuts and berries.

There’s much debate online about the benefits of the two.  Critics say that the Paleo Diet doesn’t have enough grains and legumes, critics of the Macrobiotic Diet say that it has too many grains and legumes.

Recommended reading: The Complete Macrobiotic Diet: 7 Steps to Feel Fabulous, Look Vibrant, and Think Clearly

For the last three weeks or so, we’ve been eating a macrobiotic diet in our household.  We’ve been largely red-meat free since November, when we ran out of our side of beef.  I didn’t want to order another side until tax return time, and I won’t buy store-bought red meat, so we’ve been surviving on chicken and other stuff.

More on the Paleo lifestyle: The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat

Saturday marked our return to red meat consumption.  I picked up the side of beef Saturday morning, put a couple of steaks and some burger on the counter, and counted the minutes until that sweet, tender Ribeye from the grill was melting in my mouth.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the cow: I started to enjoy our macrobiotic lifestyle.  I’ve always considered myself more of a Paleo girl because of the meat factor, but it turns out macrobiotics have made a huge difference in our health.  Now, I’m not anti-meat, by any stretch of the imagination: good quality red meat has scores of nutritional benefits when free range and grass fed.  Healthily raised cows are loaded with Omega 3 fats, where feedlot cattle are loaded with the bad Omega 6 fats.

The little kids loved their burgers, but when we ate those steaks on Saturday, the appeal was GONE.  Just gone.  And on some level, we were sad.  A high-quality steak had always been our go-to splurge meal at home since we’ve all but dumped restaurant eating.  What would we do now that steak has lost its appeal?

Well, what the heck.  Why not embrace the macrobiotic diet?  Oldest daughter has taken the lead here, searching for recipes and making lists of what a good macrobiotic student eats.

Proof that our bodies really have changed and have begun craving healthy foods lies here: I took the kids to that famous soft-serve ice cream chain this week to get them each a large cone.  We haven’t been to this place since before Christmas, so they were all excited.  As we drove away and they started to eat their cones (I didn’t have one, nor did I have a craving for one like normal), they started to express their disappointment in the experience.  We started to talk about what had gone “wrong”.

“It’s like mean green juice has become ice cream and ice cream has become mean green juice.”, second oldest daughter said, reflecting back on the olden days when they hated mean green juice and loved ice cream and other treats.  She’s right.  Things are backwards now.

I feel like we’re living in Bizarro world; this world were good is now bad and bad is now good.  But we love it here.  I’m not sure how long we’ll stay in the Bizarro world of the Macrobiotic Diet, but for now, we’re enjoying the ride.  And my still meat-loving brothers have offered to buy a good chunk of the meat from us, since we won’t be consuming nearly as much red meat as we usually do.

Note that I’m not advocating macrobiotic over paleo, or vice versa.  Each person needs to eat in the manner that makes them feel their best.  I am, however, advocating that you consider eating healthier, whatever the form of healthy eating may be.

I guess the point of this post is that I want to encourage you to think outside of the box when it comes to your diet, and everything else.  Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, to take that leap from what you imagine you want to do to what you actually do.

 

26 comments

  1. Kathy says:

    My doctor suggested I try the paleo diet and I did try for a while but didn’t like several aspects of it. First I love milk and the concept of no dairy was unappealing to me. Second, I don’t like a lot of vegetables and the ones I do like I mostly eat raw – which I know is good – but my husband wants them cooked so I had to fix them two different ways every meal. Third, I developed such a huge sugar craving that I never had before that it was almost like a drug addict NEEDING a fix. We had rarely had a lot of cake or other sugary foods like desserts but it got to the point where I couldn’t even go through the bakery section of the grocery store without feeling totally deprived and actually desperate for something sweet. Even after stopping that diet, that craving has stayed with me and I’m sure that by now, much of it is psychological. Finally, a huge reason that I had difficulty adapting is that it went against almost everything I had been told about diet and nutrition in the past. I have high triglycerides and was always told to restrict eggs, whole milk, full fat salad dressing, nuts and many other things that I was now told to eat. I felt betrayed, in that for decades I’d been told one thing and now it was like “never mind.” I think that any diet that so severely restricts huge categories of food will eventually fail and that a person is best off simply being moderate in everything they eat.

    • Laurie says:

      There is SO much confusion out there to what’s good and what’s bad regarding food. I think part of the reason we prefer the macrobiotic over the paleo is because it’s heavy on healthy grains, such as brown rice. I’ve had problems with intense sugar cravings on the paleo too, although I will admit I didn’t eat hardly any fruit, which is a big component of the paleo and could have been part of the problem. However, on the macrobiotic, I’ve had ZERO sugar cravings -woohoo! We try and stick to foods the way God made ’em, and that really helps for us. 🙂

  2. It’s so great you all have found a way of eating that works for you! I don’t think my diet has a name. It’s kind of a meld of a few … gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, whole foods … still trying to figure it out! I totally get what you mean about tastes changing too. Oftentimes, a Pepsi sounds so good but if I have a drink, it just doesn’t measure up.

    • Laurie says:

      You know, Jayleen, I hear you – we try and just eat the way God made stuff. That eliminates pretty much all “bad for you” foods. 🙂

  3. Mrs. Maroon says:

    I’m intrigued by the macrobiotic diet. At one point Mr. Maroon characterized our eat habits as the “1,000 year diet”. If it didn’t exist 1,000 years ago, we shouldn’t be eating it. This approach led us to eating largely unprocessed foods. I’m glad you bring up the juicing again. I really need to get off my rump and give that a try!! I do think it is totally possible to re-train our brains and bodies to crave the good nutrition so that when we ‘splurge’ on the old junk, the appeal is lost. Look at me now, repeating the same ideals I talked about myself just yesterday!

    Good stuff here. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Actually, I have never tryed the Paleo diet and the Macrobiotic diet. For this reason I do not know which one could be the best for me. Anyway, I completely agree with you when you say that we need to eat in the manner that makes us feel the best. I do not know what should I eat in order to feel the best but I would try with the Macrobiotic diet as I am not a big red meat consumer…

    • Laurie says:

      Sounds like the macrobiotic would be good for you, Sabrina! Let me know if you try it. Make sure to get your protein though, in the form of nuts or fish.

  5. Even Steven says:

    I lost some weight going Paleo, but it’s a hard lifestyle to keep in balance it almost has to be a major part of your life, still trying to find that balance.

    • Laurie says:

      Agreed, Steven. We have had very little trouble sticking with the macrobiotic. Cravings for junk are non-existent, and we are actually craving healthy food. Woohoo!

  6. It’s funny how any diet you look at is never “good enough” when critics look at it. One is too light in grains, the other is too high in fats. I say find one that your body works best with and stick to that. Maybe you feel more energetic on the “too little grain” diet, so you should stick with that one. Of course, you should make sure it is something that is healthy for the long-term, but overall, stick with what makes and feels best for you.

  7. I think that’s just it Laurie…everyone should take baby steps and play around with their diet to see what is working and what isn’t. Dip their toe in the water so to speak…glad you are finding healthy options for yourself and family!

  8. Tawcan says:

    Interesting, this is the first time I heard about macrobiotic diet. We’ve been doing Whole30 diet here and there which is a variant of paleo diet. I think we’re probably doing whole30 about 80-85% of the time when we’re not on the diet program and going 100% when we are. We have seen great health benefits.

  9. I’ve done Paleo, for a month at a time usually, and I like it but it’s super hard to maintain that type of diet for the long-haul (at least for me). It takes a lot more time in the kitchen to prep the food and a lot more time doing the dishes since I cook more from scratch. I love the cooking from scratch but I just can sustain that much time spent in the kitchen, plus it’s hard to do when travelling for work too.

  10. I’ve read extensively into the health benefits of almost every type of diet or lifestyle I’ve heard of. I won’t bore you with data and info, but I will say that when I have maintained the Paleo diet (which I’m not currently, because I love bread lol), my energy levels went through the roof. I woke up with energy and had it all day. I always felt great. But I love so many foods that aren’t Paleo, life is short, etc. etc. Overall, as long as I’m eating natural real foods, I feel like I’m doing ok. I avoid processed foods, but that’s about it for now. 🙂 Great write up!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s how I feel on the macrobiotic diet, Kalen! The energy levels and lack of mood swings are awesome. It’s amazing what a healthy diet can do, isn’t it!

  11. Glad to hear your family is doing well on the macrobiotic diet, Laurie! Food is such a tricky thing. I read up on paleo extensively last year and a bit before that, but there’s so much conflicting information out there. I tried searching for a holistic doctor, but there were none nearby to consult with. It’s almost like finance – we each need a plan tailored to our specific needs.

    I did notice that once I gave up pasta and bread, I no longer craved them, which was crazy for me considering pasta is my favorite meal! It’s a little scary to think about how processed foods have changed our tastebuds and manipulated us to think we *need* all that stuff.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Erin!! It’s hard to find out the facts, but I had the same experience you did about pasta and bread. I hardly eat it now, and I really don’t want it.

  12. I am a fan of Paleo Diet. My favorite recipe is the Mango Avocado Spiced Chicken Salad. This recipe keeps things light and has an eclectic mix of meat, fruit, and vegetables. It is kinda complete you know. I feel great after eating it. While some might think that Paleo eating doesn’t include salads, this is a misperception, I believe.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree, Jayson, there are many misconceptions about both diets! I felt good on the Paleo diet, aside from sugar cravings (but I probably didn’t eat as much fruit as I should have) but I feel even better on the macrobiotic diet. I think each way of eating has different benefits for different people/body types.

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