Our constant quest for a level of oh-so-elusive Life Balance can be rather taxing on our overall wellness. In life, nearly nothing is a black and white issue, but in the case of our food it actually can be that simple.
Chinese philosophy says that all food has energy. The yin yang theory is a carefully designed system of opposites to help us simplify the understandings of life, even when it comes to food. Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that food has the power to strengthen and energize, but also to heal. To achieve this harmony, eating yin-yang balanced foods is imperative.
Even though the theory of yin and yang transcends through many aspects of life, from activities to environment, the basic idea is this: yin is considered cool, dark and expansive, while yang, on the other hand, is hot, light, and constrictive. To put this into a foodie example think of a shell of iceberg lettuce (yin) and a steak (yang). These qualities even translate into categorizing foods in order to achieve a balanced diet. Because of their opposite effects, eating too many yin or too many yang foods can result in an imbalance. Lucky for you, there are foods that fall into a middle area that is considered already balanced – so neither yin nor yang.
Yin foods tend to be plant-based, raw – especially fruits. Soy products such as tofu and soybean sprouts are common yin foods. Fruits like watermelon and star fruit, and vegetables like watercress, cucumbers, carrots and cabbage have yin energy. They are normally cooling and thought to moisten your body.
Yang foods tend to be animal based, cooked – for example chicken and eggs, salt. Root and bulb vegetables such as onion, garlic and ginger have a strong Yang energy. Cooking foods that you normally would eat raw – for instance in a salad – will increase the yang energy in the food. Spices with bitter tastes like turmeric and oregano are great additions to heavily based yin foods to try to balance it out with its yang energy. The yang foods are warm and drying.
When it comes to talking about “cool” and “warm” foods, it has less to do with the actual temperature of the food but more of the energy effect it has on our bodies. “Cool” foods are normally lower in calories and high in potassium, and that is why they are normally recommended in hot weather. “Hot” foods are higher in calories and sodium and therefore recommended in colder months in order to warm your body.
Balanced foods tend to be a little more on the macrobiotic side – whole grains such as brown rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats – along with dark, leafy greens, beans and legumes, and vegetables – including squash, carrots, parsnips, onions, broccoli, and mushrooms.
We may be approaching warmer months – even though in most parts of the world we are still on this stubborn cold front – but diving into yin foods too quickly can cause a major imbalance. Excited at seeing a glimpse of warmth overdoing cooler foods can lead us to having a damper constitution, which can lead to candida and other fungal infections. So, by being conscious of the energy we are putting into our bodies we can balance and harmonize our inner energy.