Kidney Yang Foods: Foods for Yang Deficiency

Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash

Kidney Yang Foods, ie those that boost Kidney Yang, are not the only way to help Kidney Yang. But diet – long-term – is really important.

Unfortunately, Losing Kidney Yang energy is all too easy! Please read about this under Kidney Yang deficiency! Deficiency implies – for example – adrenal exhaustion.

Recovering Kidney yang can take months. If you start when older, it may be impossible to regain the vigour you enjoyed when you were young, but even so, with time you may achieve much.

By the way, if all this yin-yang stuff makes little sense, try reading balancing yin and yang.

Kidney yang depends on Kidney Yin reserves so …

If fostering yang, be sure to keep warm, to keep moving, and to avoid getting over-tired. Physical exercise is vital, and our bodies reap long-term benefits if we start young.


Passion and Kidney Yang foods

Yang energy also appears at inspiration, enthusiasm and passion.


Enthusiasm helps Kidney Yang Foods work better!
Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash


Do what you enjoy and turns you on! Keep up your spirits!

Join others with similar interests and benefit from the group’s energy and drive.

Strategy for Kidney Yang foods

Kidney yang reserves depend on Kidney Yin reserves so usually you would start by dealing with the causes of Kidney yin deficiency.

Here are four broad categories to address:

1. Mental Issues

  • Manage /remove stressors. This might be a tense atmosphere, or it might be constant anxiety or impossible deadlines to meet. Illness itself is stressful and for this, you must start with training your Mind. Even if you have to keep taking some medication, if it gives you time to train your Mind, it will be worth it. See Meditation, below.
  • Gentle relaxing massage may help.


Mud massage
Photo by Ayurmana Ayurveda on Unsplash


2. Sleep and Rest

  • Sleep! Early bed, pre 10pm. Get used to a different rhythm of life. Early to bed, and then only if necessary early to rise. But certainly, going to bed, to sleep, before 10pm is good. Even earlier, say before 9.30pm is better. Read Insomnia for more.
  • No late eating ie just before bed. Preferably allow at least three hours to elapse after your last meal before retiring to bed. Ideally, during those three hours, you will have moved around a bit: taken a short walk perhaps. (Not vigorous exercise! That would speed up your metabolism too much just before trying to sleep.)
  • Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room. Try to arrange a blind or curtains to cut out all light.


3. Reduce Stimulants and Learn to Calm

  • No stimulants – stop all coffee, chocolate etc. A little green tea is ok. (Stopping coffee is difficult, I know! But read why you should try to stop coffee! It may help to increase the number of bitter-tasting foods as you try to reduce the coffee!)
  • Meditation: Cultivate a calm mind.
  • Sharing worries may be a way to take their weight and worry off your chest.


4. Food and Digestion

  • Avoid low fat diets: fats are needed for hormones and Kidney yin health. Eat fats that arise naturally in nuts and organic animal products. Butter and cheese (preferably organic from grass-fed cows!) suit many people, unless they produce too much phlegm.
  • Ensure healthy Stomach/Spleen digestion: everything depends on that. Take Warm not cold food/drinks. Here’s the link to Warming foods (mostly good foods for Kidney Yang deficiency!) and the link to Cooling Foods (not usually so good!)
Defend digestion for Kidney Yang Foods
Keep your digestion working well! Photo by Ava Sol

Preserve your Digestive powers!

These come under your Stomach and Spleen energies in Chinese medicine. Very important to preserve your Stomach Yin and Stomach Qi energies by avoiding cold and chilled foods and drinks. Read more about this under Nutrition.

Get in the habit of eating Clogstoun Congee regularly to preserve your Stomach Yin and keep you properly hydrated: much better than drinking lots of water.

Again … Ensure healthy Stomach/Spleen digestion: everything depends on that. Eat Warm not cold food and drink.


Factors that support Kidney Yang

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure – preferably without medication. Try exercise and sensible foods – see this page and our page on Nutrition.
  • Don’t smoke! Smoking inflames your lungs which then need yin actions to cool down. You are short of both yang AND yin.
  • Exercise!


Exercise helps Kidney yang foods integrate better. But avoid over-lifting!
Photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash


  • Keep warm: don’t get cold. If you get cold, take a warm bath or sauna to recover your body’s natural warmth. Balancing yin and yang takes experience.
  • Limit alcohol to very small amounts. Alcohol is temporarily warming but doesn’t improve your digestion or help your body to improve its metabolism.
  • Limit medication and drugs esp NSAIDS, A/B, dyes, ulcer medications. These are all anti-inflammatory in one way or another, the effect of which is to cool you. If you want to increase your yang energy, don’t eat cold foods or take anti-inflammatory medicine because they work against what you want.

Foods, FIRST mainly for Kidney YIN

Remember! always take food and drink that is cooked and warm to the touch, even if it’s aim is to boost your Kidney Yin.


Many stews and broths make great Kidney yang foods by starting with Kidney Yin.
Photo by Giselle Herrera on Unsplash
  • Long cooked bone broths/stews – especially pork (organic if possible)
  • Vegetables (organic is thought best)
  • Fungi
  • Seaweeds – not all are easily digestible by everyone, but you can get their benefits by stewing them in soups or stews.
  • Barley soup is great Kidney yin food, but barley does contain gluten. Even so, for gluten sensitives this may not be a problem unless they take a lot of it. Usually, barley soothes the digestion.
  • Eggs
  • Seeds, beans, adzuki, nuts, sesame, black coloured beans
  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring)
  • Shellfish that don’t turn red on cooking (so avoid shrimp, crab and lobster)
  • Green vegetables – cooked.


When boosting Kidney Yin energy, avoid foods that are cooling:

  • Cold foods
  • Foods that are cold to the touch, even if they have been cooked


Kidney Yang foods

Later, as you stop showing signs of Kidney Yin deficiency, the following foods are more for Kidney Yang deficiency. However, being yang, they are also somewhat heating so may produce rashes, irritability or headaches in sensitive individuals if introduced too fast or if you have too much at a time.

Also, if you ignored my advice about first nourishing Kidney Yin, you may find that too many of these foods for Kidney yang deficiency will make you hot, restless and sweaty because they accentuate any remaining Kidney Yin deficiency:

  • Dry roast seeds and beans before cooking with them. (Even better, first soak in water overnight to encourage swelling and sprouting, then dry in low oven before dry roasting)
  • Game
  • Kidneys
  • Meat: lamb is particularly heating – best avoided until you grow stronger!
  • Pistacchio nuts
  • Shellfish that turns red on cooking – shrimp, lobster, crab
  • Trout
kidney yanng foods two silver fishes on round white ceramic plate
Photo by Gregor Moser


  • Walnuts, though most nuts help Kidney energy
  • Warm spices: see below BUT avoid HEATING herbs such as chilli, pepper, garlic, onion, horseradish: these are too hot, usually.
  • Read the page on Blood Building Foods for Stable Personality: many help your Yang energy.


Note: garlic and onion are great foods

but they tend to be warming – particularly garlic. That’s why people take it to ward off disease – they find it boosts their yang energy. Cooking them usually increases this though it boils off the odours that make you cry.

Non-essentail but interesting ‘Aside’

If you ever get a cold which makes your eyes and nose stream and stings your eyes, in the very early stages you can often ward it off by soaking slices of raw onion in water and sipping it. This works on the homoeopathic principle of like cures like.

Try it! Of course, I realise that the mere mention of homoeopathy will immediately lose me half my audience! Well … Goodbye!

Indeed, I once had a university lecturer – in Economic History – who attributed his health in a Japanese Prisoner-of-War camp in WW2 to his daily consumption of a raw onion.

raw onion - often too yang to be a useful kidney yang food
Raw onion – not advisable for most Kidney Yang deficiency people. Photo by Mockup Graphics

Most of his non-onion eating companions got ill but not he! However, perhaps none of them spent much time with him if they disliked the onion smell on his breath, so he wasn’t exposed to their bugs. Who knows!

To preserve balance, avoid very heating foods and herbs because these over-stimulate your body to resist them. For example, very hot curries might make you perspire, so would cool you down: counter-productive! The same goes for some kinds of strong garlic if you take too much.


Foods that help both Kidney Yin and Yang – but eat them cooked and warm if possible:

  • Artichoke
  • Beansprouts (these are very cooling so should be eaten lightly cooked, eg stir-fried to reduce their cooling quality)
  • Bone broth
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrot (if cooked, still a bit crunchy)
  • Corn porridge
  • Endive
  • Green vegetables in general, including eg dandelion greens
  • Hubbard
  • Kabocha
  • Kale
  • Okra
  • Olives
  • Radicchio
  • Rapini or broccoli rabe (be sure to eat the stalks as well)
  • Seaweeds – if you can digest them! Not everyone can. So take in small quantities only.
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Zucchini

Herbs that are warming:

Get in the habit of adding them to the dishes you eat!

  • Basil
  • Chive seed
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Cove
  • Cumin
  • Dill seed
  • Fennel seed
  • Fenugreek seed
  • Ginger root (avoid dried or powdered ginger – it can be too heating)
  • Mustard seeds
  • Nutmeg
  • Rosemary


Sage, kidney yang foods
Photo by Nika Akin
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Star Anise
  • Thyme


Once you feel back in balance …

When you are back to balance continue to avoid Cold Foods and to avoid any food or drink that is Cold to the touch. It is vital to preserve the yang energy of your Stomach.

And, of course, keep moving, keep warm and don’t get cold.


Good Sleep for Healthy Liver Blood
Sound Sleep – Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

And get enough SLEEP!

Other pages connected with Food and Nutrition:


Books on Chinese Dietary therapy

The two books by Andrew Sterman listed below give you a real feel for Chinese medicine and how it approaches food as a source of health and disease. I highly recommend them.


Each of the following books also has merits:


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