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Yin-Yang Balance and Food Choice Print Page
in United States By: Linda Prout for Acufinder Magazine
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Whether you turn to


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medicine for healing,
choosing the right foods
Advanced Search for your constitution will
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According to traditional
Chinese medicine (TCM),
Explore Acufinder health is a state of
balance in which food
Acupuncture choice is key. As a
Linda Prout
Conditions A-Z longtime nutritionist I can
report profound positive
Acupuncture Points changes when people get their food selections right.
Herbs A-Z
Nutritional balance from a TCM perspective is far different from that of
Events Calendar
Western nutrition. Modern nutrition science is based on knowing the
Laws & Legislation chemical composition of foods and the biochemical pathways of the body.
Acupuncture Resources Western nutritionists quantify nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates,
and fat, then group foods accordingly, with a one-size-fits-all serving
Acupuncture Classifieds recommendation.

The Food Pyramid, for example, groups bread, pasta, grains, and
potatoes together as "carbohydrates" and suggests 5 to 8 servings.
According to TCM, however, bread and pasta are damp and cooling, and
thus are not recommended for someone overweight, bloated, or suffering
sinus congestion. Sprouted grains, rye, and wild rice, although also
carbohydrates, do not contribute to dampness because they have
energetic properties different from flour and can actually be helpful for
people with such yin conditions.

Understanding Yin and Yang Foods

According to Eastern traditions the forces of yin and yang are energetic
qualities that shape everything in the universe, including our health. The
Chinese symbol for yin is the shady side of a hill, while the symbol for
yang is the sunny side. Thus yin qualities include coolness, dampness,
and darkness, relative to the yang qualities of warmth, dryness, and
light. Winter is yin, while summer is yang, and night is yin while day is
yang. Arthritis made worse by cold weather is a yin condition. A red,
inflamed rash brought on by heat is a yang condition. A ruddy-faced,
irritable man with high blood pressure is relatively yang. An anemic,
melancholy woman is relatively yin.

Yin foods tend to be cooling and/or moistening for the body. Yang foods
tend to be warming and drying. This has less to do with the actual
temperature or moisture of the food and more to do with its "energetics."
Boiled spinach for example, is cooling and moistening, as is baked tofu.
Chilled wine is warming, as is roast beef. Toast, while dry to touch,
actually moistens the body. The effects of such food qualities on health
have been observed for thousands of years.
Your acupuncturist is trained to balance your body's constitution. By
observing your body and understanding the energetics of food, you can
make food and activity choices to speed your body's healing progress.
Imbalance can come from an excess, or deficiency, of yin or yang.
Although more complex than this, the following is an overview of yin and
yang patterns of imbalance and the food choices that can help restore
balance. Your constitution is ever changing, so be sure you adjust with
the seasons and your life situation.

Yin Patterns of Imbalance

Cold
Tendency to feel chilled
Urine tends to be clear
Dresses warmly, likes heat
Tendency toward loose
Pale complexion stools
Preference for warm food/drinks
Slow metabolism drinks
Soft, fleshy muscles
Rarely thirsty
Often tired, sleeps a lot
Tendency to feel depressed
Health worse in cold pressed weather
Quiet, withdrawn

A cold pattern often occurs in vegetarians or those who eat primarily raw
foods, especially when they live in the cold. Cold can also set in with age
and may be combined with dampness. Regular, warming aerobic exercise
is essential. Healing food choices include warm lamb or beef dishes, dark
poultry, meat-based soups and stews, free-range eggs, eel, trout, and
wild salmon. Beneficial vegetables include cooked root veggies, baked
winter squash, onions, and mustard greens. Nuts and seeds are
warming, as are butter, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and pepper.
Helpful grains include oatmeal, quinoa, and buckwheat. Food and drinks
are best eaten cooked and warm. Salads, raw fruits, frozen desserts,
pasta, white flour, and iced beverages should be minimized.

Dampness
Strong dislike of humidity
Stuffy nose, postnasal drip
Health worsens in dampness
Mentally "foggy"
Abdominal bloating
Retention of fluids
Little thirst or hunger
Overweight, soft fat
Urine tends to be cloudy
Puffy eyes or face
Easily short of breath
Feeling of heaviness especially in lower body

Dampness can be associated with cold or heat and is exacerbated by


damp living conditions. Chronic dampness is brought on by eating on the
run, excessive worry, or from a diet rich in fried foods, breads, pasta,
commercial dairy, ice cream, and other sweets. Too many salads and raw
fruits weaken digestion and lead to dampness. Aerobic exercise is
essential for balance.

Helpful foods include lightly cooked greens including broccoli, turnip


greens, asparagus, and kale. Fish and grilled or roasted meats and
poultry are balancing. The best grains for a damp pattern are rye,
jasmine, and basmati rice as well as sprouted grains. Radishes, turnips,
pumpkin seeds, green tea, and bitter foods and herbs help to dry
dampness.

Sweets, dairy, and starchy foods contribute to dampness. Ice cream,


lasagna, white bread, and milk should be avoided.
Yang Patterns of Imbalance

Heat
Tendency to feel warm
Tendency to be talkative
Uncomfortable in hot weather
Urine tends to be dark
May suffer fever blisters, canker sores
Dresses in short sleeves
Tends toward ruddy complexion
May suffer headaches, nose bleeds, bleeding
High blood pressure gums
Often thirsty, craves cold drinks
Sleep often restless, disturbing dreams
Tendency toward impatience, irritability or anger
May be constipated

A heat pattern often shows up in hot weather or with stress. Overwork,


alcohol, and sugar heat the body. Meditation, walks in nature, swimming,
and/or yoga are ideal for balancing the agitated nature of a heat
imbalance. Ideal foods are salads, cucumbers, and lightly cooked green
leafy vegetables especially spinach and watercress. Vegetables of all
kinds are helpful whereas meats should be limited.

Other cooling foods include melons, pears, bean dishes, mung beans,
sprouts, sushi, non-spicy soups, and lots of water. Alcohol and sugar are
best avoided. Mint is a beneficial cooling herb whereas pepper, garlic,
ginger, and onions should be reduced.

Dryness
Dry skin, dandruff
Cravings for sweets
Dry stools, constipation
Preference for warm liquids in small sips
Dry throat or eyes
Night sweats
Menopause
Can easily become both hot or cold
Thin body type
Easily stressed, irritated or frustrated
Rosy cheeks, especially after exercise

A dry pattern is a deficiency of yin, or fluids. Hormones, skin oils, saliva,


digestive juices and secretions provide us our yin element. Fluids are akin
to a car's antifreeze; when low you can easily overheat or freeze. We see
dryness at menopause, or as we age and skin becomes dry. Although hot
flashes feel like heat, they are a sign of diminishing yin, which allows the
normal heat of the body to go unchecked. Stress also depletes yin.

Remedies include meditation, yoga, walks in nature and gardening.


Beneficial fats are critical. Healthful choices include fatty fish, free-range
eggs, grass-fed butter, goat and sheep cheeses, olive and coconut oil,
dark poultry meat, pork, nuts, and avocado. Soups and stews rich with
grass-fed animal fats are very helpful. Other moistening foods include
black beans, green beans, Napa cabbage, winter squash, yams, sea
vegetables, millet, whole wheat, fermented soy, and shellfish.

All types benefit by choosing foods according to the seasons.

Summer foods such as salads, cucumbers, and melons are ideal for hot
weather. Conversely meats, root vegetables, hot soups, and stews are
most nourishing in winter. Pay attention to your body and choose the
foods that naturally seem balancing.

About the Author:


Linda Prout, M.S., is the author of Live in the Balance: The Ground-
Breaking East-West Nutrition Program (2000, Marlowe & Co.). She
provides individualized e-mail nutrition programs. You can reach Linda at
www.lindaprout.com or by e-mail at Linda@lindaprout.com.

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