best natural foods

Macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang

The macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang may seem, at first glance, to be esoteric as well as difficult to understand.

What value might it have? How can it guide us to choose healthy diets that not only support well-being, but possibly even reverse serious diseases like cancer?

The point is this - the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang will help you understand clearly what effects different foods will have on you. What will happen if you eat lots of meat? Or lots of raw vegetables and fruits?

Beyond food, it also tells you about the effects of different lifestyles and environments. Like what will happen if you live in a crowded city versus wide, open countrysides. Or what is the effect of listening to slow, harmonious music versus hard-thumping, discordant rock or disco music.

You will understand a lot of things better. On the subject of foods, you will understand why some diet plans suit certain people but may not suit others. More importantly, you will know what suits you.

And it is not all that difficult to understand the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang. You can learn it in a few minutes.

The amazing powers of yin and yang

Before I explain further about the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang, let me share a story about its amazing predictive abilities.

This happened when I did the one-month Basic Macrobiotics course at the Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts, in 1994. During a class on facial diagnosis - how to diagnose health conditions by looking at the face - we were told to bring along photos of our parents and ancestors.

One lady, however, brought along also photos of her two children. The teacher, Charles Millman, looked at the children's photos and said: "Looks like the parents would divorce."

We gasped! How could he tell?

It was nothing special, really. Charles Millman pointed out that the children had very differently shaped left and right ears. According to macrobiotic philosophy, the left side is influenced by the father and the right side by the mother.

The differently shaped ears meant that, at the time of conception, the father and mother were eating very different diets. This, in turn, meant that they had very different ways of thinking - and different visions in life. It would result either in divorce, or in the couple remaining married but each person doing his or her own thing, which is equivalent to being divorced anyway.

When Charles Millman finished his explanation, the mother said: "Well, it has already happened." She was divorced.

Then I returned home and one day related this incident to my friend, who had long been separated from her husband. And she said her daughter had always asked why her two ears looked very different!

Expansion and contraction

The concept of yin and yang, in macrobiotic philosophy, is essentially about expansion and contraction. Yin is expanding energy, yang is contracting energy.

If the words yin and yang confuse you, forget about them. Just think in terms of expansion and contraction. It is that easy. A few examples will make this clear.

ALCOHOL is the product of fermentation, during which plant foods break apart. It evaporates easily. It has a strong smell that spreads. Drinking alcohol will initially make you feel relaxed. Drinking too much alcohol will make you unable to focus your mind. You cannot walk straight or think straight. Your body might become so loosened up that you cannot even stand up. All these are signs of expansion energy.

SALT is a natural preservative. It prevents foods from rotting and breaking apart. When you apply salt to foods - meat, fish and vegetables - it draws out water and the food shrinks and hardens. Put salt at the tip of your tongue and you will feel a strong contraction. And by the way, salt has no smell that spreads outwards. These are signs of contaction energy.

The macrobiotic philosophy of ying and yang tells us that opposites attract. And so salt and alcohol, having opposite energies, attract each other. The more salt you take, the more alcohol you can - and want to - drink. This is why pubs serve salty snacks - to make you drink more!

Plants and animals

Foods in general can be classified into two main groups - plants and animals. Plants grow upwards and outwards and are considered more yin or expanding. Animals are compact creatures and considered more yang or contracting.

Within each category, there are further differentiations. Among plant foods, flowers (yes some people eat flowers, or brew them as teas) and fruits are are expanding. Big leaves that open up are more expanding than small leaves, or leaves that close up (as in cabbage, leek etc).

Stems and roots are relatively contracted. Roots that grow downwards - carrot, parsnip, burdock, daikon, etc) are more contracted than "swollen" roots that grow sideways, like potatoes, yam, sweet potato, tapioca...

Grains and seeds are the most compact and contacted of all plant foods. They are small and hard. If unhusked, grains can remain alive for thousands of years.

Among animal foods, red meat is tougher and more contracted than say, pork or chicken. Wild game is more contracted than domesticated animals. Fish, prawn, crab and shellfish like oysters are relatively "expanded" animal foods. Other seafoods like abalone are very contracted, as evidenced by their tough flesh.

Macrobiotic philosophy in practice

What's the point of knowing about expansion and contraction?

Well, the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang applies to all things, not just food. For example, various health conditions and diseases can be similarly classified. Diarrhea is a problem of too much expansion energy. So are problems such as incontinence (unable to hold the urine), runny nose, excessive sweating, excessive menstruation for women, etc - anything coming out of the body....

Constipation is due to too much contraction energy. Likewise when the body is not able to carry out normal forms of discharge, like the inability to urinate or for women to have periods.

The practical application of macrobiotic philosophy may seem overly simplistic, but it is simply this - when you take too much yin or "expansion" foods, you will develop yin or "expansion" problems. And te remedy would be to take a yang or "contracting" food.

Again, a few examples will make this clearer....

Once, I had a friend from America who could hardly urinate. When she visited Singapore, she drank pineapple juice and liked it so much that she drank a second glass. The next day, she could urinate normally.

When you understand the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang, the reason is clear. Her inability to urinate meant that her body condition was very contracted. The pineapple is a very swollen, juicy, expanded fruit and its strong expansion energy helped solve her inability to urinate.

Another time, my friend who practised as an acupuncturist / natural health physician had a patient whose period did not stop for three months. After much questioning, he found out the problem started after she started taking noni juice, a supposedly "health product".

If you have ever seen a noni fruit, you will know that it is extremely yin / expanded. The fruit is lumpy - its main body expands outwards - and it is so soft that the moment it falls from the tree, it smashes into pieces.

The women probably had a yin / expanded condition to begin with. When she started taking noni juice, in the mistaken belief that it was good for her, her problem became too extreme and she absolutely could not control her menstruation.

Macrobiotic philosophy and modern science

During the Second World War, when atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, few people understood what radiation was. But one Japanese doctor at the St Francis Hospital in Nagasaki, Dr Tatsuichiro Akizuki, had studied the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang and he undestood what was happening.

He saw that atomic radiation was a very strong yin / expanding force. For example, all those exposed to radiation had severe diarrhea and discharge of blood from the gums, which are signs of yin / expansion energy.

Because of this, Dr Tatsuichiro Akizuki gave strict orders to his fellow hospital workers to follow a traditional Japanese diet of brown rice, miso soup, soy sauce, seaweed and sea salt. He also forbade them from taking sugar and sweets.

All those who followed Dr Akizuki's dietary advice survived the atomic radiation without radiation sickness, even though St Francis Hospital was just 1.4 km from the place where the bomb was dropped and virtually everyone else within a 2 km range were either killed or became seriously ill.

It was only much later, during the 1960s, that scientific research proved that foods like seaweed and miso could counter the effects of radiation.

This is how powerful the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang is. Even when a totally new disease is encountered, it can be analysed in terms of yin and yang / expansion and contraction and appropriate remedies can be prescribed.

Through an understanding of macrobiotic philosophy, one can tell what a person normally eats and even about the behaviour and attitudes of that person.

For example, those who eat plenty of meat, salt and baked goods will have a more contracted - hard and stiff - physical condition. Mentally, they may be focused but also stubborn. Such people also tend to be more selfish and materialistic.

On the other extreme, people who eat plenty of fruits, fruit juices and raw salads tend to have a soft body. I have shaken hands with many of them and their palms are usually soft like jelly. Such people may be more open minded, concerned about others (and about animals, the environment and the entire unverse) and spiritual. On the downside, they may be easily distracted, easily influenced by others and sometimes cheated.

Of course, it takes time and practice to learn all this. The basic macrobiotic philosophy is simple and can be learned in minutes. Mastering it may take a life time.

Click here to read about the macrobiotic diet, based on the macrobiotic philosophy of yin and yang.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Kindly leave a comment in the box below.


(5 articles)
Cooking oils
(23 articles)
Diet plans (13 articles)
Fiber (3 articles)
Fish (3 articles)
Grains (17 articles)
Pasta (10 articles)
Pasta recipes
(>40 recipes)
Salt (11 articles)
(11 articles)
Soy products
(14 articles)
Vegetables (1 article)
Water (6 articles)
More sections to come
Natural Cancer Cures
Flu treatments
Stop Trans fats

Criteria for healthy diets
Blood type diet - Part I
Blood type diet - Part I
Blood type diet - safe?
High protein diets
Macrobiotic diet
Macrobiotic philosophy
Nutrition - limitations and problems
Raw food diet
Raw foods diet - a personal sharing
Digestive enzmes - how crucial are they?
What's a healthy vegetarian diet?
Vegan diet - healthy or inadequate?