Yin and YangMany have heard of the concept of “yin and yang”. It’s a famous idea that contributes to the stereotype of a mysterious and deeply philosophical East that is full of unknowable tradition and ideas. While it’s cool to be known as deeply philosophical and mysterious, the truth is that we use the basic concepts of yin and yang everyday in China. They are far from being unknowable, and in this post we’ll teach you a bit about the basics as they apply to yin and yang in food.
The origins of yin and yang stretch back to the days of oracle bones, when fortunes would be interpreted from the cracks formed in animal bones after being thrown into fire. They represent the opposing yet complimentary forces that make up the universe (for example, light and dark, negative and positive, cold and heat, the moon and the sun, etc.) with yin (阴) being the feminine, cooling side and yang (阳) representing the masculine, heating side.
It’s traditionally believed that maintaining a good yin-yang balance in your body prevents illness and promotes good health while having too much yin or yang build up can result in sickness or fatigue.
Green, cooling foodsThis matters for food because all food is categorized by where it falls on the continuum of yin versus yang. So eating a good balance of yin and yang foods can keep you healthy. Or if the climate is exceptionally hot or cold, you can eat more cooling or warming foods to combat ill effects.
While the division is not perfect or official, there are some general rules of thumb that can tell you whether a food is yin or yang.
Warming pomegranatesColor: Greenish vegetables and plants that grow close to the ground (and thus are closer to moisture) are more yin. For example, green beans, cucumbers and other green vegetables. Reddish plants like peppers, dates, pomegranates absorb more sunlight and so are considered more yang.
Taste: Bitter foods like herbs or sour foods like pickles or green papayas are yin while sweet and spicy foods such as garlic or pomegranate are yang.
Seasonality: Foods grown in the winter are usually cooling, like cabbage, mushrooms and radish. Foods grown in the summer that are heavily dependent on water like citrus, watermelon and pears are also cooling.