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For general information on yin and yang go to yin and yang and read this first. We are always more yin or yang and most of the time, and this is healthy; however, sometimes we may find we experience problems from being too yin or yang. Once we have identified whether we are too yang or yin, we can simply expose ourselves to more of the opposite energy and reduce the influences we have too much of. For example, if I felt too hot and active and this was contributing to a headache, as though the sun and heat was too strong for me, I could eat all the foods I know cool me down. For me, this would be raw cucumber, grated daikon, fresh fruits, lemon water, apple cider vinegar, plain yogurt, and salads. As a result, I would feel more yin; in the past, this has resulted in my headache receding.

To work out which foods tend to help you feel more yin or yang, be aware of how you feel after eating and see if the feeling you get from eating certain foods could be described in terms of feeling more wintry or summery. Do some foods help conjure up the feeling of being in the sun while others feel like sitting in the shade? It is important not to think of the foods you actually eat in the winter or summer, as these typically have the opposite influence.

You might find that the foods that most help you cool down and feel more like the night and winter are the foods you typically eat more during the summer. Similarly, the warming foods that encourage feeling summery may be the foods you eat more of during the winter. Without realizing it, we naturally try to find some kind of balance by eating more yin foods in summer and yang foods in winter.

Next time you feel unwell, try to identify how you feel and whether you feel more like the summer or winter to decide whether you are too yin or yang. Once you know your condition, try eating all the foods you would associate with the opposite. So if I felt tired and realized I felt kind of wintry inside, I could eat some of my warming foods that help me feel more like summer again, such as thick soups, stews and casseroles.

It’s helpful to remember that yin and yang are relative terms, not absolutes. For example, playing football might be a more yang experience than walking for me, but I also find walking a more yang experience than stretching. We are thinking in different shades of gray rather than in black and white.

Yin and yang can be applied to literally anything, and that is one of their greatest benefits. In macrobiotic practice, different foods and cooking styles are used to create meals that help our energy feel more yin or yang. Generally, raw foods or lightly cooked, watery vegetables help me feel more yin, and well-cooked dishes like porridge, casseroles, thick soups, stews, and fried foods help me feel more yang. The most warming foods like baked stews and pies can feel like they have the most yang influence.

My observation is that humans love to categorize, create rules, and make lists. It is therefore tempting to make lists of everything, sorting from yin to yang. I have done this myself many times in the past. The advantage is that we quickly get to see how it all can work in real life, but the disadvantage is that we could end up operating out of someone else’s yin and yang list. Sometimes we can become highly conceptual, making a subject like yin and yang intellectual, agonizing over ancient Chinese texts and different interpretations. This takes us away from feeling yin and yang, into our heads and toward wanting to create man-made rules for ourselves. The risk is that we make our lives smaller as a result, and even alter or restrict our eating in a way that is not healthy and suppresses our natural intuition.

I have written out my own experience of yin and yang below so you can observe how I use it; you are welcome to use this as a guide to get started, but I would encourage you not to see these lists as somehow fixed or rigid—they are just my experience. Yours might be different, and I would encourage you to create your own feel for yin and yang, and to create your own lists if you feel like it.


These are symptoms I would associate with feeling too yin: feeling cold; getting frequent infectious illnesses; having cold, clammy skin; having diarrhea; being lethargic; feeling depressed; and having a victim mentality.


These are symptoms I would associate with feeling too yang: feeling hot; feeling irritable; having dry, itchy skin; having dry mouth; being stressed; being angry; and obsessing about details.


If I identify that I am predominantly yin or yang at a certain moment and I do not like the feeling, I try taking in more of the opposite energy by doing activ- ities listed below. For example, if I thought I was too yin then I would try doing more from the “to become more yang” list.

To become more yin: meditate; eat more fresh fruit and salads; drink more water, teas and juices; wear pastel colors; wear loose, flowing clothes; stretch; get out into nature; listen to relaxing music; light candles at night.

To become more yang: exercise; play competitive sports; wear bright colors; socialize; eat more cooked foods, root vegetables, grains, and fish; make to-do lists and structure the day.


At the same time, I can reduce the influences that might be causing me to feel too yin or yang using the lists below. Here, if I feel too yin I would apply the suggestions under “to become less yin.”

To become less yin, reduce: consumption of ice cream, cold foods, raw fruit, and salads; regular use of alcohol; spending time sitting around; spending time watching television; spending time alone; exposure to a damp, cold climate; feeling powerless to change circumstances; blaming other people; waiting for someone else sort everything out.

To become less yang, reduce: consumption of baked foods, dry snacks, strong spices, and coffee; binge drinking of alcohol; exercise without stretch- ing; setting standards that are too high; being obsessive; rushing; taking on too much; engaging in competitive activities.

Some foods can initially have a yang influence and then, later, a yin effect. For example, in the past, when I would drink alcohol at a party, I would ini- tially feel warm, energized, and social—I would say more yang. However, drinking alcohol regularly also used to result in me feeling lethargic, tired, and even depressed — all attributes I would describe as coming from feeling too yin.

Similarly, sugar can give me a rush of energy, warmth, and a general yang feeling, only to make me feel cold and tired when my blood sugar drops. Strong spices can create a very recognizable yang feeling of burning and heat, and yet, eaten on a regular basis, they bring our heat to the surface so we can lose it through sweating, leaving us more cold and yin inside.
Sometimes a food or activity might have a very subtle effect on me in terms of yin and yang, but then, over a period of time, it this slowly accumulates to create stronger imbalances. For example, asking our children to do their home- work does not really affect me, but if I start to let it become an everyday issue and even become obsessed with it, then I notice I start to feel more yang about their homework.

Have a macrobiotic consultation with Simon Brown in London or on-line to use yin and yang to help make the changes you want to your health and life. Call 07543 663 227 or email.

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Original website designed by James Trevena