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Breakfast Cure Blog

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What Foods Make the Best Diet for Kidney Yang Deficiency?

Food is one of the most important tools for warming and building Yang, the animating energy of our organs and systems. Because we eat multiple times a day, it’s very simple, easy, and effective to use warm and warming foods to nourish our Kidneys and our Yang energy. Have you ever wondered what foods make the best diet for Kidney Yang Deficiency? I invite you to cozy up with a warm cup and join me in this exploration.


How to Build Kidney Yang Deficiency with Diet


If your acupuncture practice is anything like mine, you are all too familiar with deficient pulses. How often do you look to the pulses to confirm or discover deep, soft, weak Kidney pulses? Most likely, you feel these pulses and see the related symptoms often if not daily. I consider this to be a precious opportunity to offer help that lasts a lifetime.  Simply share a little knowledge about how to build Kidney Yang deficiency with diet. These pearls of wisdom will equip the person in front of you with tools they can take with them and use daily. 

Many people who suffer from Kidney Yang deficiency will not find answers when visiting their primary care physicians. Let’s face it, allopathic medicine has very few tools to treat deficient conditions and so often offers no solutions. For this reason, as acupuncturists and doctors of Chinese medicine, we have an incredible opportunity to effect great change. Let us not miss a chance to offer the life-altering information that is right at our fingertips.


Kidney Yang Deficiency


The Kidney-Yang is the root of all Yang in the body. It’s known as the Fire of the Gate of Vitality, or the mingmen fire of the lower dantian (which also corresponds with the yogic Hara, just as qi is also known as prana).

When Kidney Yang is weak, this essential fire is unable to warm the body. Cold settles into the low back and knees. There is not enough Yang energy for the Kidneys to perform the basic organ functions. 

Cold generally slows things down, essentially lowering metabolism. 

Kidney Yang is the fire that also fuels the Spleen Yang and is needed for the fluid metabolism we call the transformation and transportation of fluids. 

Kidney Yang supports sexual energy and function and is an essential part of reproduction.  


What are the signs and symptoms of Kidney Yang Deficiency?


  • Back pain or soreness of the back
  • The sensation of cold in the back
  • Cold or weak knees
  • Weakness of the legs
  • Lassitude – a state of physical or mental weariness or lack of energy
  • Impotence, premature ejaculation
  • Clear, copious urination
  • Apathy
  • Edema in the legs
  • Infertility-female
  • Poor appetite
  • Loose stools
  • Pale, swollen, wet tongue
  • Deep, weak pulses


Experienced practitioners will know that when Kidney Yang is deficient, it can’t support the Spleen Yang, nor can it nourish the Blood (xue) nor the Spleen, leading to:

  • weak, flaccid muscles
  • bloating, poor appetite
  • loose stools
  • lack of willpower and motivation

We see so much Kidney deficiency in our practices in part because it is a common cause of back pain. And back pain is the number one reason most people think of acupuncture. 


Common Causes of Kidney Yang Deficiency?


  1. Chronic illness
  2. Excessive sexual activity, especially in men
  3. Dampness or retention of fluids caused by Spleen deficiency over time obstructs and ultimately depletes the Kidney Yang
  4. Old age


How to build Kidney Yang deficiency with diet


Nourishing, warm, cooked foods that are also inherently warming not only treat Kidney Yang deficiency but are a diet that preserves and maintains Kidney Yang. Not only eating food that is warm to the touch, but incorporating foods that have a warm nature. Foods like ginger, cayenne, and chilis, spices like nutmeg cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, etc are all warm regardless of the temperature when eaten. Read more here about the temperature and nature of foods. 


It is also important to include foods that nourish the Spleen to protect against and resolve dampness before it obstructs and ultimately depletes the Kidney Yang.

Read more about strengthening the Spleen with diet to further support Kidney Yang with food.


Whole grains for regulating fluid balance


Cooked grains are a wonderful way to eat unprocessed, low glycemic plant-based foods. Whole grains help regulate fluids and resolve dampness created from Spleen Qi and Yang deficiency. In Chinese medicine, rice in all its varieties Calms the Shen or Heart/Mind, Builds Qi/Energy, Builds Spleen Qi, Boosts Spleen Yang, Benefits the Stomach, Harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach, Soothes Digestion and inflammation, Regulates Fluids, Generates Fluids and Nourishes fluids, especially important for nursing mothers. 


Each of these benefits is critical for good health and is magnified when rice and other grains are made into congee. Congee is an incredible way to support your digestion and hydrate and soothe your Stomach.  Great for any meal, congee is made by slow cooking grains or seeds with lots and lots of water. Easy to make, eat, digest, and assimilate, congee offers a jumpstart for digestion, a wake-up call for your metabolism, and a relaxing morning routine if you let it cook while you sleep.


Cooking soups and porridges with ample water or other fluids allow the fiber to become moist, soft, and soothing to the organs of digestion while passing through. Nutrients become readily available in the fluid and are basically pre-digested food, taking the strain off the organs themselves.


Warming foods and spices in general are excellent for strengthening Yang. Listed below you will find foods to include and limit when eating to nourish Kidney Yang.

Cooked grains and soups made with
  • Rice
  • Oat groats
  • Barley (gluten)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Cooked or stewed fruits
  • Black beans
  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Salmon
  • Black pepper
  • Ginger
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Turmeric,
  • Nutmeg
  • Fennel


 Foods to limit or avoid
  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Sprouts
  • Salads
  • Tofu
  • Dairy, especially ice cream
  • Smoothies
  • Iced drinks
  • Refined sugars


Observe how you feel

Enjoy, experiment, have fun, try new foods, relax while you eat, chew a lot, and most importantly, stop and observe how foods make you feel after you eat them. You are an expert on yourself in a way no one else can be. Grow this expertise by giving a little extra attention to the messages your body gives you.

Breakfast Cure is an easy option for trying some meals designed to be soothing for the organs of digestion.  Our overnight slow-cooker and instant pot meals are meant to be made with plenty of water. Browse our flavors now.

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View or download the Chinese medicine energetics of our flavors!

What Foods Make the Best Diet for Kidney Yang Deficiency? Thanks for reading. We’d love to hear your thoughts about foods that warm and strengthen Kidney Yang. Please email us at

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