Eating the’Yin Yang’ Way

Salads are not always that healthiest option!

The field of food and nutrition is quite complex. It is no wonder people get so frustrated with diets and jump from one diet to the next. Personally, I do not believe in ‘dieting’, but rather to incorporate a way of eating with your lifestyle. Articles on nutrition are often said to be ‘contradictory’. I believe this to be because different people need different nutrition and react to foods differently. What is good for one person is not always good for another. It is difficult to incorporate everyone in a generalised write up.

There are so many lifestyle ‘healthy’ diets that are out there today. There’s the banting diet / paleo foods, rawtarians (raw food diet), acid alkaline, the low-fat diet, etc. Now, I’m not saying that any of these diets are wrong, but I don’t think any of them are completely right for the entire population either.

I recently came across an article about yin / yang balancing and thought I’d do some more research about yin and yang foods. I have found this to be one of the most holistic ways of eating. I personally find that this way of eating lives up to its nature. It is very balanced and logical. I feel many people have lost ‘common sense’ when it comes to food.

Salads for summer and veggies for winter. 

The principles of Chinese medicine are based largely on yin and yang balancing. Everything has yin and yang energy, however, one is usually more dominant. Some of the characteristics of yin are: expanding, passive, cold, dark, moist, winter, night, fatty, low in sodium (high in potassium). Some of the characteristics of yang are: contracting, active, hot, light, dry, summer, day, lean, high in sodium (low in potassium).
When yin is in excess in the body, people are usually overweight (expanded), they look ‘puffy’. They often become ill. They struggle to concentrate and become withdrawn, slow and passive. Yin is usually in excess due to people eating too many yin foods, especially at the end of the spectrum[1], and they are spending too much time doing ‘yin things’ or in a ‘yin’ environment (see explanation further in article).

When yang is in excess people tend to become very aggressive and uptight. This often occurs when the conditions become ‘too hot’ meaning that people living in hotter climates are eating extreme yang foods (at the end of the yang spectrum) or that they are just eating excessive yang foods. Yin and yang energies can also be deficient, which is different to being in excess. When people are well their yin / yang energies are balanced.

would like to point out that through research and reading the articles there is a lot of negative light around the yin energy. We must not go to extremes! Yin energy is very much necessary; however, we need more of the ‘good yin energy’ and less of the ‘bad yin’ energies such as chemicals, drugs, sugar and alcohol. Just as we need more of the good yang and less of the bad yang. The problem is that currently the world is in a yin excess. [2]

I am not going to give a detailed list of yin and yang foods, because just like the acid / alkaline food charts, there are contradictions. So rather I will focus on the characteristics.[3] Yin and yang foods do not have much to do with the temperature of and moisture in the food, but more to do with the energy constitution.

Yin foods are ‘cold’ or ‘damp’ in energy constitution. They are known as ‘summer foods’ and are lower in calories, higher in potassium and lower in sodium, sweet, sour, fatty, more water content and less dense than yang foods.

yin-yang foods

Yang foods are known as ‘winter’ foods and are higher in calories, salty, bitter, lean, lower in potassium and higher in sodium. It is good to eat the foods closer to the centre of the spectrum, and if you do have ‘an extreme yin or yang food’ (such as meat or diary), balance it with something from the opposite side of the spectrum, closer to the centre: not the other extreme!

The cooking methods used also influences the energy of the foods. Raw foods are more yin and cooked foods are more yang. However, it is important to incorporate both methods of ‘cooking’. One should also ensure that one does not overcook the food, as this destroys nutrients.





Yang (warm) foods – excess heat many cause inflammation
Yin (cold) foods – excess cold stagnates energy

So why should one eat a balance of yin and yang foods, and at times more of one food? The reason is to help your body be in balance and so that it does not develop into a diseased state. It is logical to eat more yin foods in summer or warmer weather (which is yang) and logical to eat more yang (cooked, warm and more dense foods) in the winter or colder weather (which is yin). Nature is smart; we just have to look at the fruits and vegetables that are in season.
Another problem that we face is that remedies (natural or allopathic) that worked 100 years ago do not always work today. Some traditional Chinese doctors say that this is because the energy constitution of the planet, in general, has changed to become a lot more yin.[4] Chemicals, radiation, drugs, alcohol, increase consumption of sugar, refinery of foods, negativity and many other things are a lot more yin. Chinese doctors suggest that people need more ‘yang’ therapies[5]. One of the things that I have noticed is that people think that they should take vitamin C, flu shots, eat lots of fruit in winter when they get sick or to prevent themselves from getting sick. Nowadays, because so many people are more ‘yin’, people should really be drinking herbal teas, such as ginger, getting some time in the sun, eating cooked vegetable, getting rest and going for therapeutic reflexology treatments, or other yang therapies, to help their systems. (Please note that this does not apply to everyone, as some people are more yang in constitution [especially healthier children], so they may require vitamin C and other fruits. (When in doubt it is always a good idea to ask your trusted medical therapist or practitioner).

yin yang characteristics

Lifestyle habits which are more yin include: laziness (such as lying in bed all day), going to bed after 11PM or getting little true rest, vigorous exercise (which depletes our energy and nutrients, weakens the adrenals and wears the joints), toxic exposure (this includes household chemicals), stress, sympathetic nervous system activation (fight or flight adrenaline) and taking vitamin supplements. Lifestyle habits which are more yang include: 8-10 hours of restful sleep, going to bed earlier than 9PM, napping (even for 15 minutes), moderate exercise with muscle tension, deep breathing, little toxic exposure, stress (which is confrontive), parasympathetic nervous system activation (regenerative and restorative) and minerals (tissue salts).

We can discern whether we should be eating more yin or yang foods by: the climate and season, our personal constitution, the state of our bodies (any diseases present) and stress levels. All these conditions are changing constantly; therefore the way we eat should change with it. Here are some of the characteristics of yin psychology: they are slow, weaker and more emotional. They tend to be fearful and / or depressed. They are negative and past orientated. They tend to withdraw from society. Many people with a ‘yin’ condition or imbalance display ‘mentally fogging’. They may also be more likely to use drugs and have addictions to other stimulants such as smoking, alcohol, or even sugar.

The characteristics of yang psychology: people who are more yang are more energetic, expressive emotionally and engaging. They are more confronting and physically stronger. Yang people are usually optimistic and future orientated. They are more extroverted. Many people with a yang condition or imbalance are more aggressive, arrogant and uptight, they are easily angered. They can also be self centered, selfish, domineering and narrow minded.

Enter a caption

It is important to note that these both yin and yang psychological constitutions can be present in one person, but sometimes one energy is imbalanced and needs to be balanced to prevent further ‘damage’. Here are some examples.
1.) A man lives in a South Africa (close to the equator.) It is February and very hot. He loves his braais and beers, but he can also be very aggressive and easily angered. He works very hard at work and the only time he feels that he can really relax is at a braai where he can enjoy his meat and beers. His wife is concerned with his temper and uptightness. He has also developed high blood pressure and his wife is concerned with his health.
What is the problem? This is an example of a condition that is too yang. The climate is yang, the foods that he is eating is too yang and that leaves his with an extreme yang attitude and development of a yang condition. To help balance this he should include more raw foods, ground vegetables and leafy greens into his diet to try balance and perhaps to substitute some of the extreme yin beers (which he is probably craving to help balance the yang condition). He should also ensure that he gets enough true rest. Vigorous exercise (such as running) is not advised at the moment because it can strain his heart, instead he should try exercise like walking and light muscle tension exercises. He should also make a habit of breathing deeply during some time during the day.
2.) A woman decides to go on a diet in winter to be in shape for summer. She also lives in South Africa, but now the climate is cold. She is experiencing mental blocks and bloating with little weight loss despite her healthy eating of sticking to a low calorie, raw foods diet eating lots of fruits and salads. She is also jogging on a daily basis, but this is making her feel worse, making her joints ache. She is also beginning to feel depressed, cold and withdrawn and has developed candida. She is feeling so negative that something with such good intentions and seeming so harmless could go so wrong.
What is the problem? Even though the woman is living closer to the equator (yang), the season is yin. By eating cooling foods she is making the condition even more yin. The jogging is also more yin. The feelings of mental blocks, negativity and depression is a yin psychology and candida is a yin disease. She should eat more foods that are in season and more cooked vegetables. If she eats from the centre of the spectrum and slightly more yang she should lose the weight if she does not overeat (overeating is yin). Light muscle tension exercise is recommended, as well as true rest and enough sleep. She should stick to more alkaline yang foods to cure the candida.

Some tips :
– When you have a craving, eat from the middle of the chart
– Avoid eating foods on the ends of the spectrum
– In winter eat more cooked vegetables, protein in moderation.
– In summer you can eat lighter foods
– Eat more seasonally and locally
– Balance lifestyle factors that are yin with lifestyle factors that are yang
– Balance environmental situations with the food that you eat
There is so much more on yin and yang foods and lifestyle. This article is merely a glimpse to help you understand. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

[1] See yin and yang food chart
[2]Dr Wilson, L. Yin and yang healing
[3] You can look at the food charts in this article to get an idea of which food are yin and which are yang.
[4] Dr Wilson, L. Yin and Yang healing
[5]Yang therapies include: rest, reflexology and acupressure, minerals (tissue salts), biofeedback, some meditation, heating herbs, exposure to the sun.


◦ Anon. Yin-Yang Nutrition. How to strike the best balance. (1 May 2013). Online: (2015/04/03)
◦ Gates, D. Probiotic Nutrition: The Yin and Yang of acid and alkaline foods. Online: (2015/04/06)
◦ Honey-Pollock, S. How to stay nourished with yin and yang foods. (27 March 2012) Online: (2015/04/03)
◦ Prout, L. Yin-yang balance and food choice. Online: (2015/04/04)
◦ Dr Trey, M. Understanding the Yin and Yang of foods. (22 March 2014) Online: 2015/04/03
◦ Wemhoff, L. Macrobiotics Cooking with Linda Wemhoff. Online: (2014/04/06)
◦ Dr Wilson, L. Yin and Yang healing. Online: (2015/04/03


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