Eat ‘Yang’ Food This Winter

By Ellen Wang
Ellen Wang
Ellen Wang
August 30, 2013 Updated: October 8, 2021

According to traditional Chinese medicine, there is a close relationship between having nutritious food in the winter season and finding balance between yin and yang.

What we eat will create or remove blockages in our energy channels, as well as change our qi (energy) and blood circulation. During the cold winter season, having nutritious food is especially effective in improving our overall health and strengthening our immune system.

“Supplement the body when it is weak; warm the body when it is cold.” This is an important principle in traditional Chinese medicine. In winter, when it is cold, the key in eating well is to follow the course of nature (eat seasonally) and pay attention to cultivating “yang” energy in the body.

One should eat more food that is “warm” or “hot” in its energetic nature, especially the type of food that can strengthen the kidney energy. These types of food help improve the body’s ability to resist cold.

One may choose from grains like wheat or a variety of hearty whole grains, soybeans, peas, and vegetables like chives, garlic, turnips, or cauliflower. Eating warm, rich soups and roasted nuts also helps heat the body’s core and keep us well-nourished.

Avoid raw foods during the winter as much as possible, as these tend to cool the body.

Having food high in protein and fiber also helps. One of my favorite protein sources in the winter is duck. Duck meat is good to have with ginger to help with digestion. Chicken is good as well. It is “warm” and energetic, rich in protein, and the nutrients in chicken help prevent of colds.

Avoid ‘Cold’ Food

According to the theory of Chinese food energetics, there are five different categories of food: hot, warm, cool, cold, and neutral. In different seasons, we should eat different foods, including different fruits.

When the weather starts to turn cold in the fall, we should eat fewer melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and cucumber, which is referred to as “green melon” in Chinese. Because they are “cool” in nature, eating a lot of melons in the winter can cause diarrhea.

Eating according to the seasons is especially important for older people because their organ functions are weaker, and they tend to have a cold stomach.

Ellen Wang is a certified holistic health counselor at Tao Institute of Mind & Body Medicine. She can be reached at

Ellen Wang
Ellen Wang