What is 'Yin阴' and 'Yang阳'?

How to categorize food based on it?

23 July 2022

By Intern Chan Ting Ting

The Chinese Philosophy of Yin and Yang acts as a strong core foundation for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The concept of Yin and Yang describes how two polar opposite forces are complementary with each other.

A healthy balance between both Yin and Yang Qi (healing energy) restores a person’s overall health.

It is applicable to the food we consume everyday and our diet plays an important role in creating a healthy balance of both elements in our body.

We can categorize food into 3 different categories.

For food that are Yin:

  • ‘xing han’ (very cold) eg. watermelon, banana, coconut water, lettuce,

  • ‘xing liang’ (less cold) eg. cucumber, tofu, pear, barley, fungus

For food that are Yang:

  • ‘wen xing re’ (hot or heaty) eg. durian, polished glutinous rice, lamb, lemongrass, garlic, ginger

For food that are neutral

  • ‘ping he’ (neither cold nor hot) eg. carrot, green peas, potato

To categorize Yin and Yang:

1) Look at the water and energy content the food contain.

Food or fruits with higher water content are considered ‘liang’ (cooling, Yin) eg. watermelon, coconut.

On the other hand, for those food with higher energy content in which energy is contributed from fats are considered ‘re’ (hot, Yang) eg. lamb, eel.

2) Based on the taste and color of the food or fruit.

Food that are Yin are typically bitter, sour, salty and associated with colors green or cool-toned. eg. tomato, bitter gourd.

Whereas, food which are Yang are typically sweeter, spicy, pungent and associated with warm color tones (red, orange). eg. caramel, parsley.

3) Method of food preparation

Food that are Yin are cooked via boiling or steaming.

Boiling and steaming adds moisture to the body, increasing Yin.

Whereas, Yang refers to using methods like roasting or frying as it increases the heat energy.

Yin and Yang food refers to how our body reacts to it. Typically food which are Yin gives one a cooling sensation, whereas food which are Yang gives one warmth upon consumption.

Yang Deficiency

If one has a Yang deficiency, which is insufficient Yang Qi (energy), he or she will feel cold and can consume food that are rich in Yang to ensure that the body is warm.

Yin Deficiency

If one has a Yin deficiency, insufficient Yin Qi (energy), he or she will feel warm and can consume food that are rich in Yin which is cooling to ensure there is enough fluids to nourish the body.

As TCM recognizes patient’s ‘ti zhi’ 体质 (individual body conditions and characteristics), physicians will advice their patients what type of food he or she should consume to restore the balance of Yin Yang.

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