Macrobiotic Drinks Guide

The macrobiotic diet is a popular way of eating in Japan and amongst certain other communities and groups (i.e., those with cancer) elsewhere in the world. Most of the writings on macrobiotics focus on foods and scarcely mention drinks. However, anyone practicing this diet will inevitably have to ask themselves: How much and what do I drink on a macrobiotic diet?

In macrobiotics, drinks are somewhat limited in amount and type.

How Much Should I Drink?

In macrobiotics, water and other beverages are...MORE considered to be yin, and a major part of the diet is shifting it more in the yang direction. Therefore, in macrobiotics, it is recommended that you only drink enough to feel "comfortable" (i.e., not uncomfortably thirsty) and that you drink little enough that your urine is bright yellow. During and after meals that include miso soup, you may find that having a drink is unnecessary for your own needs.

What Should I Drink on a Macrobiotic Diet?

Drink a comfortable amount for thirst Bancha twig tea (kukicha), bancha leaf tea (green tea),
roasted barley tea, roasted rice tea, yannoh (mixed grain coffee) and spring water.

  • 01 of 08

    Water

    water in jug
    ansonsaw/Getty Images

    Some strict practitioners of macrobiotics recommend that the only beverage you drink be either pure spring water or good quality well water. No ice. No carbonation (duh). No additives (which is to say, no tea or herbs or fruit waters). Boiled water gets you macrobiotic bonus points (which have no actual monetary value).

    Most macrobiotic eaters and authorities also drink other drinks, so don't feel bad if you just can't live on water alone. Just keep in mind that other beverages should be mild, non-stimulating and as yang-leaning as possible.

  • 02 of 08

    Bancha 'Twig' Tea

    Bancha tea
    Bancha tea. Rama/Creative Commons

    Bancha is a later-harvest green tea from Japan. It may be made of the leaves or the leaves and stalks of the tea plant. In macrobiotics, the tea made from the twigs/stems of the plant is recommended, and it's also known as 'Kukicha' or "Hojicha' (a roasted form of Bancha).

    While bancha is generally considered to be inferior to earlier harvests in Japan, it is a preferred type of tea in macrobiotics because it is naturally lower in caffeine, and thus less stimulating.

  • 03 of 08

    Grain 'Teas' and Grain 'Coffees'

    Barley Tea
    Barley tea. Fotosearch/Getty Images

    Recommended grain 'teas' include barley 'tea'/mugicha and roasted rice 'tea'. To a lesser extent, barley tea mixed with green tea and genmaicha can be consumed, too.

    These mellow drinks are often served to children, sick people and elderly people in Japan, but they are also enjoyed by many people who just want a mellow, delicious drink.

    Grain coffees tend to taste more bitter and are not usually drunk so much for their taste as for some kind of coffee simulacra. They are often made up of a blend of grains and other plant materials (such as roasted dandelion root).

    Barley is considered to be ideal for the "water element" of the winter season. Rice is suited to the "metal element" of autumn. Although barley tea and roasted rice tea are really tasty and refreshing when drunk iced in summer, ice is frowned upon in macrobiotic cuisine.

  • 04 of 08

    Other Herbal Teas

    Dandelion Root Tea Preparation
    Preparation of dandelion root for tea. Shana Novak/Getty Images

    Other herbal 'teas' in the world of macrobiotic drinks include dandelion 'tea' (made from the roasted roots of the plant), kombu tea or kombu cha (made from kombu seaweed, and not the same a kombucha), mu tea (also known as 'mu 16 tea' due to the 16 mountain herbs* the "Father of Macrobiotics", George Ohsawa, used in his original recipe) and ​umeboshi tea.

    * Moutan, Japanese parsley root, Cnicus, Mandarin orange peel, licorice root, atractylis, cypress, cinnamon, Wolfiporia extensa, peach kernel, ginger root, Rehmannia, cloves, herbaceous peony root, Japanese ginseng and Goldthread

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Beverages to Drink Sparingly

    Soybeans and soy milk
    Soymilk is a widely available dairy alternative. FooDFactory/Getty Images

    The following drinks are considered OK for occasional consumption:

    - ​Soy milk

    - ​Beer/sake

    - Local fruit juice

    - ​Green tea & grain tea blends

    - ​Kuku/kudzu drink

    Keep in mind that drinks like peppermint tea and ginger tea may be stimulating, and should be consumed very sparingly.

  • 06 of 08

    Medicinal Veggie Juices

    Ginger syrup in a bottle
    Spicy, warming ginger syrup can be used as a sweetner. Bill Boch/Getty Images

    Veggie 'juices' are sometimes drunk in macrobiotics, though pretty sparingly and more as medicine than as food. They are not raw juices or even pressed juices, but rather juices from simmered plant material. These drinks are brothy, usually savory and often very nourishing.

    There are many types of 'veggie juices' you could make while cooking, as they're essentially just cooking liquid from somewhat carefully selected plants. For example, you could simmer diced onion, carrot, white cabbage and pumpkin until well done, then strain off the broth and drink it (and eat the veggies as well). You could do the same with grated daikon and ginger or carrot. For a legume-ier version of a macrobiotic veggie drink, simmer adzuki (red beans) until well done, add a splash of shoyu and strain off the liquid to drink.

    Some macrobiotic guides say that limited amounts of local fruit juice are okay, too.

    For more on which veggies to make into macrobiotic drink at which season, see this guide to seasonal eating in macrobiotics.

  • 07 of 08

    Other Medicinal Macrobiotic Drinks

    Kudzu roots, Close-up
    Medicinal kudzu roots. Inmagineasia/Getty Images

    There are some pretty wild medicinal drinks in macrobiotics. For example, kudzu root powder mixed with gelatin and simmered. Yum? (Or not. But, hey, who said medicine is supposed to taste good?)

    For more information, check out macrobiotic home remedies, including teas, other drinks, plasters, a compress, a cream and more.

  • 08 of 08

    Macrobiotic Drinks for Babies?

    According to older macrobiotic texts, babies on a macrobiotic diet can drink spring or well water that has been boiled and cooled, bancha twig tea, grain teas, apple juice (warm or hot) and amazake that has been boiled with twice as much water and cooled. Some macrobiotic parents also fed their babies rice milk and soy milk.

    However, it has since been widely accepted that a macrobiotic diet is not suitable for babies or young children, as they cannot get several nutrients that are essential to their healthy development. Please consult with a licensed nutritionist before considering a macrobiotic diet (or a variation on one) for your child.

Although water is the central beverage in the macrobiotic diet, it's certainly not the only beverage! There are lots of drinks to choose from, and I hope you enjoy exploring some of the ones found on this list.