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Yin & Yang Nutritional Philosophy

The Chi is in the Food

the tao of foodThe Eastern concept of Yin & Yang is a philosophical and more spiritual approach to gaining health through food. The Western chemistry of acid and alkaline is more of a materialistic and scientific approach. However, both concepts carry an equal understanding of balance. The essence of Yin & Yang is somewhat esoteric and difficult to describe in mainstream terms. It can most easily be thought of as opposing yet complementary forces that blend and unite in order to create balance. Life is not static, everything is constantly moving, changing, and shifting, just as the acid and alkaline ratio shifts in our bodies. Yin & Yang are the opposing and complementary energy forces that determine the natural order of the universe. These forces are reflected in our cells, the human body, and the whole universe. Day follows night, spring and summer follow winter, joy follows sorrow.  Likewise, food formulas have yin and yang proprieties.

yin-yangMost Chinese medicine is traditionally based on the idea that our life force or ch’i is in constant movement and transformation along meridian pathways.  Meridian pathways are explained in the PDF on reflexology.  When we digest food, the ch’i or life force energy sustains us and gives us life. The flow of energy must be vigorous in order to maintain good health.  Our life force can be improved and maintained by changing what we eat.  The Taoist approach to eating focuses on the food itself bringing in energy. The Western approach is focused on how the food eaten creates the metabolic energy. Taoists believe that in the beginning was heaven; representing spirit and light and that all matter was created from heaven; the earth and the dark. The spirit; light is the part of the ch’i energy called Yang, which is considered the masculine force in the universe. The matter; dark is the part of the ch’i energy Yin, which is considered the feminine force in the universe. Within each there is always a seed of the other, ready to change and grow, to transform into its opposite.

When we digest “dead” food, which lacks frequency; life force, or what is commonly known as ch’i energy, we feel sluggish and lethargic. Examples of dead foods are: old vegetables, meat that has been frozen for a long time or has begun to decompose, milk that has been processed and fruit that has not been picked from a tree while it is still warm from the sun.  Processed and refined foods also lack energy and fill our bodies with chemicals and toxins that block energy flow. If dead energy in dead food is allowed to stagnate, it could actually poison us with harmful ch’i. The closer food is to its natural state and the less sophisticated, processed or refined it is, the more nutritional value is shared with our bodies.  Therefore, meals can be very simple. Natural, fresh, “alive” food contains goodness and nourishment. The following is a brief summary of the Tao of food.

YIN & YANG

Yin: inner, down, north, negative, passive, receptive, night, cold, soft, wet, winter, shadow, interior, moist, retiring, lingering, larger. Yin foods grow in the earth or darkness.

Yang: outer, up, south, sky, positive, active, day, heat, dry, summer, sunshine, surface, powerful, quick, smaller. Yang foods grow in the air and sunshine.

The goal of the Taoist approach to food is to find balance. Eating predominantly Yin foods causes the body to produce only Yin energy, which is darker, slower-moving and has a pacifying effect. It gives a  feeling of lightness, making the body less full and cooler. Eating predominantly Yang foods causes the body to produce only Yang energy, which is faster, hotter and much more energetic. 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. Use this knowledge to balance your system whenever the delicate balance is disrupted.

Yin-Yang foods

According to the Tao of food, balanced Yin & Yang energy foods are: grains, seeds, rice, root vegetables, cheese and apples. It depends on the mixtures of the growing and the combination of the finished product. The balanced foods grow in the dark environment in the flesh of the fruit or vegetable, “Yin energy”, even though the fruit or vegetable itself has been exposed to the sunshine which is “Yang energy”.

Eating what is locally grown helps keep your body balanced with the local climate. For example, if you lived in the tropics you would eat the Yin energy fruits such as pineapple, figs, dates and chilies. These Yin energy foods combat the heat of the Yang tropical climate. Likewise, in colder climates it is beneficial to eat very warming Yang energy foods, such as stews and casseroles.

The Taoists consider healing foods to be those that restore the balance during illness: cooling Yin food for a fever, and hot Yang food for cold and shivering.

Yin and Yang Qualities

Yin Foods Yang Foods
large, expanded
soft
fatty
moist
thin, light
sweet, sour
long
loose structure
high in potassium
thrive in hot weather
low in sodium
small, compact
hard
lean
dry
thick, heavy
salty, bitter
round
tight structure
low in potassium
thrive in cold weather
high in sodium
Yin Animals Yang Animals
inactive
passive
slow-moving
active
aggressive
fast-moving

The acid forming and alkaline forming foods can be classified Yin or Yang according to their sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium phosphorus and sulfur content. Yin acid forming foods are high in phosphorus and sulfur, and at the same time are low in sodium. Yang acid forming foods are high in phosphorus, sulfur and sodium. Yin alkaline forming foods are high in potassium, calcium and low in phosphorus and sulfur. Yang alkaline forming foods are high in sodium, magnesium and low in phosphorus and sulfur.

BALANCING YIN & YANG

The following list is from the four wheel balance of foods on page 90 and 91 of “Acid & Alkaline”, by Herman Aihara. It is divided into four groupings:

  1. Yin alkaline forming foods
  2. Yin acid forming foods
  3. Yang alkaline forming foods
  4. Yang acid forming foods.

For the best balance, choose 25% from each of the groups 1,2,3&4. For balancing extremes, choose from the Yin alkaline forming with the Yang acid forming foods, or the Yin acid forming with the Yang alkaline forming foods.

Yin Alkaline Forming Foods: (choose from 1,2,3&4 or 1&4 or 2&3)

Beverages: natural wine, natural sake, cocoa, fruit juices, coffee, tea, mineral water, soda water and well water.

Other foods: honey, mustard, ginger, pepper, curry, cinnamon

Fruits: tropical fruits, dates, figs, lemons, grapes, bananas, peaches, currants, pears, plums, oranges, watermelon, apples, cherries, strawberries

Vegetables: potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, shiitake, taro, potatoes, cucumber, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, celery, cabbage, pumpkin, onions, turnips, daikon, nori, hijiki, carrots

Seeds: squash seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds

Yin Acid Forming Foods:

Other substances: most chemicals, medicinal drugs, psychedelic drugs, sugar, candy, soft drinks, vinegar, saccharin, vodka, some wine, whiskey, sake, beer,

Beans and legumes: soybeans, green peas, tofu, white beans, pinto beans, black beans, chickpeas, red beans (azuki)

Refined grains:   macaroni, spaghetti

Nuts: cashews, peanuts, almonds, chestnuts,

Oils: corn oil, olive oil, peanut butter, sesame butter

Human milk

Yang Alkaline Forming Foods:

Beverage: kuzu tea, dandelion tea, mu tea, Ohsawa coffee, yannoh, ginseng,

Grain: millet

Other foods: sesame salt, soy sauce, miso, umeboshi, salt

Other foods including herbs and sea vegetables:  wakame, kombu, lotus root, burdock, dandelion root, jinenjo

Yang Acid Forming Foods:

Grains: cornmeal, oats, barley, rye, wheat, rice, buckwheat

Protein: shellfish, eel, carp, white meat fish, cheese, fowl, meat, tuna, salmon, eggs and cow’s milk

Yin / Yang Disorders

Excess Yin Foods Excess Yang Foods Excess Yin & Yang
Leukemia
Meningitis
Colitis
Epilepsy
Emphysema
Diabetes
Asthma
Skin cancer
Hypersensitivity
Nervousness
Jaundice
Gout
Ulcers
Tongue cancer
Lung cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Kidney cancer
Colon cancer
Muscular dystrophy
Anger
Paranoia
Arteriosclerosis
Hepatitis
Uremia
Gallstones
Breast cancer
Uterine cancer
Bladder cancer
Schizophrenia

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