Foods to nourish Kidney Qi & Yang

Updated: Jul 12

The Kidneys are crucially important to our overall health and wellbeing. These kidney bean shaped organs have so many tasks to complete during the day including controlling blood pressure by releasing hormones, controlling red blood cell production, balancing fluids, returning vitamins and minerals to the bloodstream, excreting drugs and waste products, balancing acidity and managing the amount of blood in circulation.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Kidneys store the foundation of life, an essence called Jing. This Kidney essence is regarded as essential for reproduction, growth and development (1). Kidney Jing is inherited. Ageing and lifestyle ,unfortunately ,deplete Jing. Whilst what we inherit may be completely out of our control, we can make a difference by eating well, reducing stress, getting enough sleep and having acupuncture as soon as we are not feeling 100% .

The Kidneys are also the central hub for balancing Yin and Yang in the body. If the Kidneys are out of balance, Yin and Yang becomes out of balance leading to an imbalance in the other organs. When they are working optimally, our energy levels are good and we are motivated as well as have drive and determination. Our libido is healthy and blood & fluid circulation is strong and in balance.

The Kidneys are associated with the Water element, the season of Winter, salty taste, the colours dark blue & black and the emotion of fear. Winter is the time that we reduce our activity which helps the Kidneys to rest and recuperate. If you are craving salty foods or having dreams which induce fear, the Kidneys need to be rebalanced and supported. The Kidneys also house our will power (Zhi), so poor will power generally indicates the Kidneys are depleted.

Our Kidneys store energy like a battery, releasing this when we are unwell, stressed or overworked. If the Kidneys are fatigued there is a lack of Yang energy. Yang is moving; it rushes upward, moves quickly and is full of energy. A deficiency of Kidney Yang can manifest as tiredness, cold feet, swollen ankles, a lack of drive or motivation and a lack of willpower

Caring for the Kidneys is very important

The following are key points to note:

1. The Kidneys do not like the cold. By covering up the lower back the Kidneys are protected from the cold.

2. Eat warm foods. Bake, roast or stew foods- especially in winter.

3. We all need to nourish the Kidneys in winter. Anyone who has experienced illness, a trauma or a period of stress, or is elderly should include Kidney nourishing foods throughout the year. The foods to include are listed below.

4. Ensure that you include some light exercise in your day. This can be a gentle walk, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga. Movement helps with blood & fluid circulation, relaxes the mind and ensures that muscles, sinews and tendons are supplied with nutrients via the blood.

5. Avoid overindulging on coffee & alcohol. Highly processed foods and foods with excessive salt/table salt should also be avoided.

6. Include real salt in your diet but use this in moderation. Too much salt can put a strain on the Kidneys which need to work harder to maintain the balance of salt and potassium in the body. Real salt means salt that is mined from sea deposits (an example would be Redmond Real salt). Ancient sea beds are not polluted with plastics – which, very sadly, our oceans and seas now contain. Also ensure the salt has no additives such as anti-caking agents (sodium aluminosilicate. E535, E536, calcium silicate).

Eating to support Kidney Qi & Yang

The best foods to eat in winter are those that are available in season in your part of the world.

As a general rule, incorporate foods with a strengthening and warming action, such as:


cabbage, chives, fennel, leeks, onions, potato, radish, scallions, sweet potato, yam, aubergine, seaweed.


cherries, grapes, mulberry, goji berries (used in TCM to strengthen Jing)


walnuts, chestnuts, pistachio, lotus seeds, black sesame seeds Herbs & spices

ginger, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, chive, basil Teas

spiced tea, cinnamon, ginger


black beans, lentils


buckwheat, oats, quinoa, corn, black rice

I have excluded meat and fish out of respect to vegetarians, vegans and those who exclude certain meats for religious reasons. If you would like to get the list of meats, fish and dairy I will be posting a separate post shortly and will pop the link in here.

NB: Eat these foods in moderation and ensure your diet is varied. Eating too much of a particular food can lead to other problems.

Foods to avoid: Thermally cold or cool foods; cooling teas such as peppermint, foods which grow in hot climates and are very sweet (think pineapple, mango), iced water.

Raw foods (these require more energy to digest), sugar, alcohol, juices (orange or tropical fruit), sour milk products.

Drinking too much fluid

Contrary to what we are told by advertisers, not everyone needs to drink 2 litres of water a day. We are not told that food also provides us with fluids. The fluid from food contains nutrients which are needed for the body to work optimally. Drinking too much water can over-dilute body fluids which affects the fine balance between sodium and potassium in the body. We need some sodium, and flushing the body by over drinking water can reduce sodium levels.


Having too much fluid in the body is a sign that fluids are not being transported around the body efficiently- think swollen ankles, puffy skin. Foods which help deal with fluid retention include mushrooms, kidney beans, seaweed, celery and barley.

Not enough fluids in the body

Signs that you are drinking too little and/or are not having enough fluid rich foods include dark urine throughout the day, a dry mouth or lips and dry skin.

Acupuncture to support or nourish the Kidneys

Acupuncture focuses on moving Qi, clearing any blockages, nourishing the organs, reducing stress levels and balancing the organs so that each one works in harmony with the other organs in the body.

If you find you don’t feel your best, book an acupuncture treatment to help you on your journey to feeling great again. Acupuncture, along with eating the right foods ,can make a significant difference to your health and wellbeing.

I would love to hear about recipes or ways in which you have included Kidney strengthening foods. Pop these in the comments box.

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  1. Ni M. The yellow emperor's classic of medicine: a new translation of the Neijing Suwen with commentary. Shambhala Publications; 1995.

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