Chinese Medicine Food Therapy: Eating for the winter season


One of the pillars of Chinese medicine besides acupuncture and herbal medicine is food therapy, or using food as medicine. Each day we have the choice to nourish our bodies with the food and beverages we consume, or promote imbalance and dysfunction. This has a direct impact on our energy, immune system and digestion just to name a few.

A big part of Chinese medicine food therapy is eating with the seasons. We’ve all heard the importance of eating what’s in season. It typically tastes better and is more reasonably priced. Chinese medicine takes it a step further and looks at the thermal nature of these foods and how they can support our body during a particular season. A food’s color, for example also has special meaning based on the season as well as it’s flavor profile.

As we enter the winter season, let’s take a closer look at how we can use Chinese medicine food therapy during this season to promote health and wellbeing.

Winter is the end of all seasons. Cold and darkness drive one to seek not only external warmth, but the body needs inner warmth as well. This inner warmth promotes healthy blood flow (to keep us warm), aids digestion to keep us healthy and helps restore physical energy (this is important during the darker months of the year).

Salty and Bitter: Flavors for cold season

These two flavors bring body heat deeper and lower to help keep us warm.

Bitter foods need not just be bitter, but bitter and a combination of other flavors. These include:

  • Celery
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Cabbage
  • Amaranth (a grain)
  • Turnips
  • Watercress
  • Citrus peel (make a tea out of this! It’s a great digestive aid after meals)
  • Cooked, leafy greens

Salty foods to include are: 

  • Miso
  • Soy sauce
  • Seasweed
  • Salt (good quality sea salt)
  • Millet
  • Beans, especially black beans
  • Barley
  • Soups and stews with the addition of added sea salt • Bone broth

The importance of warm food in the winter

Lastly, how we prepare our food each season is important too! Winter is not the season to be on a raw food diet or drinking iced coffees (don’t shoot the messenger). Warm foods and beverages help to keep us warm and healthy during the winter months. Heating our meals conserves bodily energy when we digest them, thus giving us more energy to make it through cold winter days.


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