The Meaning of Yin and Yang and how to use them in your cooking

yin and yang

The Meaning of Yin and Yang

The terms yin and yang are used within Taoist and Chinese philosophy to describe how opposite forces are connected and interdependent in the natural world. Yin and Yang are relative terms. Something is only considered yin when it is in relation to something more yang. For example the moon is more yin than the sun which is more yang.

These seemingly contrary forces give rise to each other and interrelate with one another. They can be thought of as phases of a cyclical movement such as dark and light, or activity and rest. Or sometimes yin and yang are differentiated depending on varying states of matter. For example expansion and contraction or rising and descending.

When we look at the yin yang symbol we can see that even within the yin there is still a spark of yang and within the yang there is still a hint of yin. According to this philosophy everything has both yin and yang aspects and any specific object can have more yin or more yang.

Even within our body yin and yang aspects are present. States of disease and health are also reflected through these two forces. Read below for ways to balance yin and yang in your body and in your cooking.


Yin in our Body

Yin is moistening and cooling. In our bodies yin refers to more passive processes. For example our bodies fluids and tissues are yin (hormones, blood, lymph, flesh, bones). People who are more yin in nature tend to have a softer voice, paler complexion, be slower, and more intuitive.

Yin helps to balance the warming and active energy of yang. But when fluids become excessive they tend to move downwards causing swelling in legs, excessive urination, heaviness, and not enough heat.


Yang in our Body

Yang is more active, fiery and energetic. It is essential to all physiological processes and provides warmth to the organs. Yang “stokes” the metabolic process. For instance, digestion and the beating of the heart relies on yang. People who tend to be more yang have a redder complexion, are louder, more driven, and feel warmer.

Because heat and activity have a tendency to move upwards and consume fluids symptoms of too much yang tend to manifest in the head with red eyes, red face, thirst, dryness, and too much mental activity.


Create Balance with Yin and Yang:

The modern world creates extreme oscillations between the two polar opposites of yin and yang. Many people are swinging between these states and cannot find balance due to lifestyle, diet, and emotional highs and lows. Fluctuating between being highly stressed and crashing is a classic manifestation of a yin yang imbalance. But when one is balanced ones energy adapts to challenges, it is possible to handle extremes when necessary, and one remains anchored in stillness.


Dietary Changes:

The best foods for long term health are not extreme and a healthy diet has a relatively balanced amount of yin and yang. It can be helpful at times however to re-establish equilibrium between yin and yang using foods.

Balance Yin/Yang when cooking

Yin foods are generally bitter, salty, sour and/or cooling. Yang foods are generally sweet, pungent and/or heating. When preparing food balance these flavors and thermal natures and notice warm/cool, heavy/light, hard/soft, salty/sweet, quick/slow, and expansive/contractive qualities.

Use Food to Create Desired Effect

You can make adjustments to your diet based on your particular imbalance to positively impact your body, moods and life.

Eat Yin Food to Balance Yang

  • Eat watermelon and cucumber to balance a hot "yang" day
  • When feeling spaced out, anxious and overly sensitive avoid too much sugar and alcohol.
  • To increase the yin nature of your food use dehydration, thickening, and frying

Eat Yang Food to Balance Yin

  • Eat fresh ginger and oil of oregano when you have a "yin" common cold with lots of mucus and watery discharge.
  • When feeling heavy, impatient and aggressive avoid too much salt, meat and cheese.
  • To increase the yang nature of your food use soaking, sprouting and steaming

Most importantly, when working with diet every person is unique. Eat. Create. and Explore what works for you :)

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