Did you know that the principle at the heart of Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang, also applies to Chinese food and cooking? In Chinese medicine, all foods can be quartered. Qis: Hot, warm, cold and cold; or yang, light yang, light yin and yin respectively.
In general, yang food improves blood circulation and warms us up, but too much yang food (or eaten in the wrong season, for example, in summer) causes constant thirst, hot flashes, night sweats and constipation. In contrast, yin food quenches thirst, cleanses our systems and cools us down, but if not eaten properly, it slows down our metabolism and weakens our bodies. In particular, according to traditional Chinese, pregnant women are traditionally advised not to eat yin foods (e.g. crab, watermelon) as they can increase the chances of miscarriage.
So what are some examples of yin and yang dishes?
Cereals and Beans
- light yang (hot meal): glutinous rice, black rice, barley, sago, sorghum
- light Yin (cold food): wheat, barley, green beans, buckwheat, millet
- right in the middle: Rice, corn (corn), sweet potato, sesame, soybean, rice beans, oats, long beans, peas, kidney beans, mung beans, lentils, broad beans
Meat and Dairy Products
- light yang (hot):beef, lamb (mutton), chicken, shrimp, lobster, mussels, goat’s milk
- light Yin (cool): duck, abalone
- yin: duck eggs, crab, scallops, octopus, squid, snails, raw food
- Just right: chicken eggs and egg whites, pork, scallops, fish, cow’s milk, yogurt
Fruits and Nuts
- light yang (hot): peach, almond, date, lychee, long side, lemon, papaya, pine nuts, walnut, chestnut, cherry, mango
- light Yin (cool): apple, pear, orange, strawberry, pipa
- yin (cold): Persimmon, grapefruit, banana, star fruit, kiwi, watermelon, sweet melon
- Just right: plum, pineapple, grape, olive, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut milk, peanuts, hazelnuts
- light yang (hot): scallions, garlic, leeks, cilantro/parsley, onion, pumpkin
- yang (hot pepper
- light Yin (cool): tomato, celery, eggplant, choy shum, spinach, asparagus, artichoke, cauliflower, tofu (including soy milk), gluten, lotus root, winter melon, cucumber, mushroom, needle mushroom
- yin (cold): bok choy, arrowhead, water spinach, watercress, bamboo shoot, seaweed, straw mushroom, bitter melon, water chestnut
- Just right: carrot, potato, taro, mushroom, turnip (very light yin), black mushroom (very light yin)
Other Food and Ingredients
- light yang (hot): spices such as young ginger, cloves, dill, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, paprika, nutmeg, wild pepper, cumin, star anise; stimulants such as alcohol, coffee, black tea, and other caffeinated beverages; red sugar, ginseng
- yang (hot): Cinnamon
- light Yin (cool): green tea, honey, beer, chrysanthemum tea, mint
- yin (cold): Soy sauce, soybean paste, salt
How Does This Apply to Us?
According to the Chinese, we are each born with a yin or a yang or somewhere in between. For example, if you always crave spicy foods, you may have a yin body; and if you love watermelon any time of the year, you’re probably a Yang.
Your state of health can also indicate your body’s yin-yang balance.. Constantly cold hands and feet? a Yin; Do you have a sore throat easily and get angry quickly? One Yang. Seasonal and geographical differences will also affect our choice of yin and yang foods.
- while cooking yin food (applies to most vegetables), add yang supplies such as garlic, scallions, ginger and coriander.
- Eat seasonal foods: Let nature guide us how to eat.
- Balanced diet: If we eat a wide variety of foods, yin and yang are balanced.