According to traditional Chinese medicine, one’s spiritual, physical and emotional well-being are all regulated by the balance of yin and yang in the body. A deficiency or excess of yin or yang throws the body off kilter, leading to bodily and spiritual ailments.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) believe that yin and yang foods help to prevent certain conditions and heal your body. The Chinese symbol for yin is the shaded side of a hill. It signifies femininity, coolness, dampness, and darkness. In contrast, yang is the sunny side of the hill. It signifies masculinity, warmth, dryness, and light. Yin and yang are complementary qualities and essential to each other.
Yin foods are believed to be cool and thought to moisten your body. Yang foods are believed to be warm and drying. The yin or yang characteristics of a certain food have less to do with its actual temperature or moisture level than its purported energy properties and effects on your body. “Cool” or yin foods are generally low in calories and high in potassium. They’re recommended in hot weather. “Hot” or yang foods tend to be higher in calories and sodium. They’re recommended in colder months to help warm your body.
Each food has a combination of yin and yang elements that are complementary, existing in that food in a dynamic balance. Yin foods are predominantly alkaline-forming, but a few yin foods are acid-forming. Yang foods are predominantly acid-forming, but a few yang foods are alkaline-forming as well.
While each type of food has its intrinsic character, this can be modified to some extent depending on how the food is prepared. Cooking in an oven and fire-based cooking, such as grilling, roasting and smoking, are seen as yang-type processes on food, meaning it becomes more yang (more warming or invigorating). Poaching, boiling and steaming are cooking methods referred to as ‘with water and heat’, of a neutral or yin character, so “the food is more easily absorbed by our digestive system, thereby requiring little energy expenditure. It provides a comforting temperature and warms the body.” 3 If food is left raw (to eat in a salad for example) or fermented (such as making yoghurt from milk), these are considered strongly yin preparations, while frying food is seen as strongly yang.
According to Chinese medicine, the yin-yang theory can also be applied to human beings, and each individual has their own character. There are five main groups of temperaments: a person can be strongly yang (hyperactive, nervous, extrovert), yang (active, unemotional, extrovert), neutral yin-yang (active or relatively inactive, rather unemotional, peaceful), yin (active, emotional, introvert) or strongly yin (relatively inactive, highly emotional, introvert). It should be noted that resemblance to any of these categories is not permanent and it is quite possible to ‘change family’ over the years.
Traditional Chinese dietetic therapy pays special attention to the five basic tastes. The term ‘taste’ is a much more extensive concept than the one we are accustomed to in the West, and goes beyond the sensation on the palate. According to Chinese dietetic therapy, the five basic tastes are sour (associated with the liver), bitter (connected to the heart), sweet (connected to the spleen and stomach), pungent (associated with the lungs) and salty (linked to the kidneys), each causing tropism of a particular organ of the human body, as it enters and influences that recipient organ. In moderate quantities, a taste will have a positive effect, nourishing the organ it is associated with; by contrast, excess or lack of a particular taste will have a negative impact on the associated organ. While tastes act on specific organs and their meridians, they also affect metabolism.
Once you know your particular constitution and the nature of food, you can select the most suitable food to create balance in your body. A particular foodstuff is not beneficial for everybody. In general, yang food serves to balance yin people, while yin food provides harmony for yang people. As such, the choice of food and how it is cooked would depend on your constitution and your specific needs, but also on the season, another important aspect taken into account in Chinese dietetic therapy. According to Chinese medicine, preparing a dish that bears these different variables11 in mind enables you to harmonise the universe’s vital yin and yang forces within yourself and positively influence your well-being.
Yang foods boost mental strength and encourage assertive and aggressive behaviors. The best way to good health is to choose foods that are balanced, containing both the Yin & Yang energies.
Foods that are predominantly Yin or Yang should be treated with caution. Use this balance theory for all areas that need balance. For those with passive, or wishy-washy thoughts, those who are disorganized, lazy or apathetic, eat more Yang energy foods. For those with rigid thinking patterns and driven personalities, the Yin energy foods will help to restore equilibrium.
1. Yang foods:
Common yang foods include:
– foods that are high in fat, protein, calories, and sodium;
– certain meats, such as chicken, pork, and beef;
– shrimps, herring, salmon, sardines, especially when fried, fish roe salad, caviar (very yang)
– warm spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Also turmeric, fenugreek, and oregano;
– eggs, glutinous rice, sesame oil, bamboo, and root vegetables (roasted (broiled) root veggies)
– goat cheese, ghee butter
– vegetables that grow below ground are more yang, such as rutabaga, turnip, parsnip, carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger. Yams and sweet potatoes grow below ground, but are much less yang because they contain more sugar and starch. The most yang vegetables are endives, cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, soy, chickpeas, cress, seaweed, red onion, parsley root, carrots, leeks, nettles, kale and red cabbage.
– the most yang fruits: apples, blueberries, raspberries, cranberry, redcurrants, crab apples (very yang).
– mustard greens, Korean ginseng ( Very Yang)
– grains that are most yang include millet, integral rice, wheat, amaranth and buckwheat ( very yang). Also cereal germs and wild rice (very yang).
– pollen, basil, dandelion root, sage, rosemary, cloves, gentian, sweet pepper, basil, thyme, cumin, coriander, chicory, saffron, sage, bay, horseradish root, black mustard, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, fenugreek, angelica.
– tonic herbs: chicory – root, hogweed – root, pumpkin – seeds, sunflower – seeds, sesame seeds, ginseng – root.
– sunflower oil, sesame oil
– tahini paste (spread) and oleaginous fruits (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, black olives, edible chestnuts).
– alcoholic beverages
– quality spring or mineral water is the most yang. The quality will depend upon the minerals that are in the water.
– cooking grains or any food, and adding some salt, makes them more yang
– pressure cooking makes a food a little more yang, which is generally very good. Cooking at high temperature (baking or roasting) or cooking for a long time is also more yang, but damages the nutrients in the food.
– Foods that are moderate yang include: fruits ( wild strawberries, quince, rose hips, blackberries, raisins, blueberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, pomegranate), oleaginous fruits (black olives, edible chestnuts), vegetables (celery- root, white onion, green onion, zucchini, pumpkin, green beans, dandelion, white radish, moon radish, spinach, green garlic, white cabbage, artichokes, turnip, Jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, Brussels sprout, legumes (Mung beans ), oils ( olive, corn and almonds oil), spices (celery – leaves, anise – seeds, horseradish – leaves, dill – leaves, mint – leaves, garden mint – leaves, white mustard – seeds, parsley – leaves, tarragon – leaves, turmeric – root, ramson, lovage, scotch lovage, nutmeg – fruits, green pepper – seeds, rape – leaves), herbal remedies ( artichokes, fir buds, black mullein, yarrow- flowers, goose grass- leaves, wild strawberries- leaves, marigold- flowers, chamomile- flowers, pine buds, couch grass- root, black poplar- buds, loosestrife- leaves and flowers, celandine- leaves, yellow bedstraw- flowers, Saint John’s wort- flowers, shepherd’s purse, agrimony- leaves, horse chestnut- leaves, juniper- berries), tonic herbs ( milk thistle- seeds, burdock – root, dandelion – root, nettle – root, ashwagandha- root, green barley – young plant, tamus – root ).
- Yin foods:
Common yin foods include:
– soy products, such as tofu and soybean sprouts;
– certain meats, such as crab and duck;
– fruit, such as watermelon, pineapple, papaya, mango, oranges, mandarins, pears, peaches, watermelon, cherries, grapefruit, lemons, melon, plums, cherries, dates, figs, coconut
– vegetables, such as watercress, cucumbers, carrots, beetroot, mushrooms, avocado, asparagus and cabbage ;
– nightshade vegetables are much more yin (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers);
– yin grains are quinoua, barley, oats, corn; Also sprouted cereals, white bread, white flour pastries;
– white beans, red lentils, lima beans;
– yogurt, fresh cow-cheese, cream, butter, margarine, kefir, hard and soft cheese, whey cheese;
– vinegar, vanilla, poppy seeds, lemon balm
– peanut oil, safflower oil, coconut oil
– herbal remedies: primula officinalis, lady’s mantle, plantain, coltsfood (tussilago), acacia, elderberry, motherwort, dead-nettles, fennel, hop, linden, valerian, licorice, flex seed, tribulus leaves;
– cold drinks and water, coffee, chocolate, coca cola, yin fruit juices, alcohol
chocolate, cocoa, sugar, cream, jelly, pickles, ice cream, syrup, tomato paste, marmalade, candy, peanut butter, coconut oil
– fermenting grains or any food, tends to make them more yin because ferments (yeasts and fungi) are very yin organisms.
– sprouting grains makes them more yin
– soaking any food makes that food a little bit more yin
– tap water is often a little more yin due to the toxic chemicals found in it and the chemicals added to it such as chlorine and fluorides. Soft water is more yin than hard water, which contains more minerals.
Alkaline water is more yin than a slightly acidic pH water.
Drinking too much water – more than about 3 and a half quarts or liters, also makes the body more yin.
– cutting up vegetables, grinding grains, refining food, juicing it or eating food raw is more yin. Eating foods whole is much more yang.
– Foods that are moderate yin include: vegetables (green lettuce, celery leaves, green peas, lentils, broad bean ( fava bean), parsnip), fruits (strawberries, apricots, white sea buckthorn, carob beans, mulberries, cornel fruits, grapes, green olives), herbal remedies ( lungwort, sage, melilot, heart’s ease, knotgrass, mistletoe, red clover, elm, grape vine), others (yeast, honey, rosehip tea, sea buckthorn tea) .
I am looking forward to hearing from you and share with you my knowledge about how a balanced yin yang diet can bring you more energy, more vitality, and health.