Did you know that food can be used as medicine? Knowledge of the effects of different foods can be used to keep your body in balance and prevent illness as the seasons change.

In the winter, Yin is dominant over Yang. The days are shorter and colder. All living things slow down. Animals hibernate, and people stay indoors. It is a time of dark, rest, reflection, and quiet. In the winter, it is important to conserve energy and build strength.

The element of winter is water (the most Yin of the five elements). The organs associated with water are the kidneys and bladder. Chinese medicine views the kidneys as the storehouse of energy that sends warmth and energy to every cell in the body.

During the coldness of winter, it is important to allow conserve Yang energy. When possible, go to bed early (like the sun does) and get up later after the temperatures have risen. Get the Qi moving with exercise, but stay inside on very stormy or windy days. During the winter, cold can seep into the body, so it is important to acquire more heat energy from food.

Eat Less

  • Salt, which slows blood circulation and increases fluid retention
  • Raw foods, which cool the body
  • Caffeine, which is hard on the kidneys (try tea or decaf. instead)
  • Spicy foods, they cause sweating which releases heat from the body

Eat More

  • Warming foods: chicken, coriander, fennel, mutton
  • Herbs to remove cold: garlic, onions, black pepper, ginger
  • Foods that strengthen the kidneys: sweet potato, kidney beans, millet

Winter Chicken Soup (Chinese Style)


  • whole chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 slices ginger
  • salt (to taste)
  • fresh vegetables (carrots, celery, fennel, green onion)
  • Chinese herbs (I recommend some or all of the following: astragalus root 5g, codonopsis root 10g, angelica root 10g, ginseng 10g, wolfberries 10g – these are all available online or at any Chinese pharmacy).


  • Put the chicken to the pot
  • Add enough water to cover the chicken
  • Bring the water to a boil and remove any residue that comes to the top
  • Add the ginger, garlic, salt, and herbs
  • Bring back to a boil, then simmer covered for at least an hour
  • Add vegetables
  • Simmer until vegetables reach desired texture
  • Remove from heat
  • Enjoy!