The Best Yin Foods

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the things that I love about Chinese medicine (and there are so MANY things I love about it) is how practical it is. Staying healthy is really about lifestyle, and a big part is that the foods we eat are the best medicine. Got a fever? Eat some cucumber or watermelon. Have the chills and can’t get warm? Try eating some lamb, or a handful of cherries. The ancient Chinese had a vast knowledge of foods and their healing properties which is why nutritional therapy is one of the building blocks of Chinese medicine and still used by practitioners today. Food really is the best medicine.

Each food in TCM is seen to have a thermal property – warming, cooling or neutral. Conversely, the body can also be hot, cold or balanced, or neutral and certain illnesses introduce heat or cold into the body, so in Chinese medicine we eat cooling foods for excess heat, or warming foods for excess cold. Today, we will look at foods that nourish the yin / cold / water aspect of the body and are particularly beneficial if you have an excess of yang, fire or heat. But how do you know if you have excess heat? Below is a list of symptoms that point to an excess of heat or yang.  If you have many of these, you might want to introduce some Yin foods into your diet to help clear the Yang and build Yin.

Signs of Heat in the Body

Signs of Excess Yang

  • Fever
  • Aversion to heat
  • Desires cold
  • Redness – swellings, inflammation, rashes, sores
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • High blood pressure
  • Extreme or uncontrollable anger or frustration
  • Constipation
  • Dark, yellow urine
  • Desire for cold drinks
  • Extreme thirst
  • Blood in stools or urine
  • Stools with a strong odour
  • Red tongue with deep cracks
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Chapped lips
  • Nose bleeds
  • Canker sores
  • Bad taste in the mouth

Other Factors that Contribute to
Foods Thermal Nature

raw

There are several widely accepted factors that also affect the thermal nature of the foods we eat.

  • Growing Time – Plants that take longer to grow (potatoes, carrots, cabbage, squash) are generally considered to be more warming, and those that grow quickly (lettuce, radish, cucumber, summer squash) are considered more cooling.
  • Raw – Raw foods are more cooling that cooked foods.
  • Refrigeration – Food that is chilled and eaten cold is more cooling.
  • Fertilizer – Foods that are chemically fertilized because it is forced to grow quickly is considered more cooling. This includes more commercially grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Colour – foods that are blue, green or purple in colour are considered cooler than foods that are red, orange and yellow. This even applies to the same foods, for example, a green apple is considered cooler than a red one.
  • Cooking Methods – Foods that are cooked for longer periods of time, at higher temperatures are considered more warming. But cooking food on low heat for a longer period is more warming than cooking it at a high temperature for a shirt time.
  • Chewing – Chewing food thoroughly helps the Spleen to digest it (because we love our Spleens, right?) and creates warmth. Even cooling foods can be warmed by chewing them thoroughly. Chewing also helps to break down the food more thoroughly before reaching the Stomach and the action of chewing releases saliva that helps break the food down further which helps assimilation and absorption and we want as much of that as possible!

The Best Yin Foods

Green Tea

Green Tea Yin Food

Kelp and All Seaweeds

seaweed yin food

Tofu

tofu yin food

Goat Milk / Yoghurt / Cheese

goat

Sardine

Sardines Yin Food

Alfalfa Sprouts

Sprouts Yin Food

Bok Choy

Bok Choy Yin Food

Cilantro

cilantro yin food

Banana

banana yin food

Watermelon

watermelon yin food

Blackberries

black berries yin food

All Citrus Fruits

citrus fruits yin food

There are many yin foods, and these are only a few. Introducing yin foods into your diet is not only a good idea when you are suffering from an excess of yang like a fever, they are also good to eat in hotter months like the peak of summer to keep us hydrated and cool. So, next time you feel overheated or come down with a case of excess yang, reach for one of these yin foods (or many) and you will be amazed at how quickly you feel relief. :)

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