Chinese System of Yin/Yang Foods

From Dr. Cousens’ book, Conscious Eating:

The interrelating and complementary principles of yin and yang are key concepts in traditional Chinese philosophy that are used to describe the dynamic nature of the universe. The principles of yin and yang, though polar opposites, do not exist without each other. According to traditional Chinese thought, everything, even the personality, can be viewed from the perspective of yin and yang elements.

Yang attributes are contractive, hot, fiery, dense, heavy, flat, and low to the ground. A yang personality is powerful, strong-willed, extroverted,grounded, outgoing, focused, concrete, active, and prone to getting angry easily. An unbalanced yang personality can be overly aggressive, tense, coarse,and irritable and angry. Excessive intake of yang foods can intensify and amplify these yang mental characteristics. For example, although in ancient India they did not call it yin or yang, they fed their warriors flesh foods as a way to increase their warlike characteristics.
Yin attributes are expansive, receptive, cool, dilated, light, vertical, and thin. The yin personality is introspective, receptive, self-contained, quiet,mellow, easy-going, reflective, sensitive, and has an expansive, spiritually oriented mind. An unbalanced yin personality may be “spaced out,” timid,ungrounded, weak-willed, and passive. An excess of yin foods without other yang-balancing factors could cause yin imbalances in the mind and body.

Foods are also classified by their predominant yin and yang characteristics. Foods are not all yin or yang. Each food has a combination of yin and yang elements that are complementary, existing in that food in a dynamic balance. Yin foods are predominantly alkaline-forming, but a few yin foods are acid-forming. Yang foods are predominantly acid-forming, but a few yang foods are alkaline-forming as well. The following categories of foods are listed in the order of most yin to most yang: chemical additives, processed foods, fruits, vegetables, sea vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, grains, dairy, fish, poultry,pork, beef, eggs, miso, and sea salt or commercial table salt.

Yin alkaline-forming foods are fruits, vegetables, and honey. Seeds, nuts, and beans are acid-forming but slightly yin to neutral. The basic yang foods,such as grains and flesh foods, are acid-forming. Yang alkaline-forming foods are radishes, pickles, miso, and salt. Yin acid-forming foods are sugar, chemical drugs, soft drinks, and alcohol.

Each of these foods has its own yin and yang force and can be said to be an energy in itself that influences the mind toward more expansive or contractive tendencies. Choosing the proper balance of yin and yang food intake is relative to many different factors in a person’s life and total environment. A few of these factors are constitutionally determined. For example, a constitutionally hot yang person will be balanced by cooler yin foods. In the Chinese system, the organs and glands of the body are classified by their yin or yang nature or state of imbalance. Appropriate yang or yin foods are given to help balance and heal these particular organs or glands. One’s work in the world, environmental conditions, spiritual practices, and level of awareness are all forces that affect the yin/yang balance in a person. Food is one of the main factors influencing yin/yang balance.

Sometimes when eating a very yin food, one may crave some yang foods to balance. For example, wine, which is yin, balances cheese, which is yang. Beer, which is yin, balances salty pretzels, which are yang. Alcohol, which is yin, balances meat, which is yang. If a diet is too far to one side, it may stimulate cravings of foods from the other extreme in an attempt to achieve some balance. If one eliminates one extreme yang food from the diet, some-times it is best to eliminate an extreme yin food to maintain balance. So, if you give up beer, you may maintain the balance better if you also give up pretzels.

Our degree of spiritual awareness and transformation affects how much our mind is shifted by the yin and yang energy of foods in a somewhat different way than the other factors affecting yin and yang. In the spiritual process, because it is expansive, it is my impression that people spontaneously shift to more yin foods to support the lighter, more superconductive needs of the mind and body. The mucus- and acid-forming, enzyme-less, yang grains, flesh foods, and other cooked foods tend to decrease the spiritualizing energy of the body-mind complex. The uncooked, primarily yin foods support and activate this expansion of consciousness and sensitivity to the Divine. It sometimes happens that spiritual evolution proceeds too rapidly for a person and they become too quickly expanded for comfort.They might find themselves craving yang foods to slow down the process. On the other hand, if a person’s awareness is expanded in a way that is grounded and balanced, then yang foods will not be craved.

A retrospective research project of mine, on a group of 106 people involved in a spiritual program where there was no training or emphasis on diet, found that 63% of the people shifted to a more yin diet as their awareness expanded over a year’s time. It is as if the organism spontaneously shifts to a more yin diet to support the shift in expanded spiritual awareness and sensitivity. The process of eating to enhance spiritual life involves consciously choosing a diet that will support the expansion of consciousness so that we are reactive co-creators of the dietary change process.

As consciousness expands in a mature, balanced way, it is my observation that more and more yin foods can be eaten without developing a yin imbalance. One does not necessarily develop the symptoms of a yin imbalance such as spaciness, lack of motivation, and poor concentration even if one eats primarily yin foods. The power of a shift toward an expanded spiritual awareness of the Divine is often a stronger force than the yin or yang energies of the foods one eats. This does not negate the general observation that the judicious use of yin or yang foods can be helpful when one feels a need to gently counterbalance certain yang or yin mental or physical states. Food is a supportive rather than determining factor in the development of spiritual awareness. Choosing a more yin diet is particularly effective for supporting the development of spiritual transformation.