Article Comment 

The yin and yang of comfort foods


Add some warming yang to your winter diet with dishes like this pot roast served on creamy mushroom grits.

Add some warming yang to your winter diet with dishes like this pot roast served on creamy mushroom grits. Photo by: Greg Dupree/


Launch Photo Gallery


This double-crust pot pie with chicken, hash browns and carrots contains several yang foods.

This double-crust pot pie with chicken, hash browns and carrots contains several yang foods.
Photo by: Jennifer Davick/



Jan Swoope



After the deep freeze the Golden Triangle has weathered since Sunday night, today's forecast near 40 degrees sounds downright balmy, doesn't it? Thank goodness that's over. When Jack Frost blows in on a polar vortex, we tend to hunker down with warm soups, chili and stews. It seems the thing to do. We've always known what we eat affects our health, but have you ever wondered how certain foods impact our body temperature and the ability to stay warm?  


For one perspective, we can look to the Orient. Traditional Chinese medicine asserts that food therapy can help maintain or restore our bodies' yin and yang balance. According to an article titled "Eat to Beat Winter Chill: How to Stay Warm Using Food Therapy" by Om Paramapoonya at, yin foods have a cooling effect and promote relaxation. Yang foods tend to heat up and invigorate the body. The extent a body is affected varies from person to person. 


The effects don't necessarily have much to do with the actual temperature of the food, the writer notes. It's more about the internal impact. Ideally, every meal should consist of both yin and yang components, but the proper ratio depends largely on the individual's tendencies. Someone with naturally high body temperature, who tends to sweat profusely even in mild weather, will likely need to add more yin. Those who suffer from cold sensitivity and low energy will benefit from more yang, especially in winter.  




Yang foods 


What are they? A sampling includes beef, eggs, mutton, pork, poultry, oily fish and salty cheese. Add white and red meat fish, carrots, winter squash, potatoes, turnips and chili peppers to the list. You can add yang to the diet, too, with dates, coconut, blackberries, nutmeg, sea salt and soy sauce.  


A few examples of yin foods include white sugar, white processed breads, pastas and pastries, soft cheeses, watermelon, apples and green beans. There is ample information on Chinese yin yang food therapy online; a simple search will produce numerous resources. 




Heat-inducing beverages 


While we love to wrap our chilled hands around a mug of steaming hot chocolate in winter, ginger and ginseng tea are among the best heat-generating drinks, Paramapoonya tells us. It's been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve blood circulation, relieve headaches and prevent chills and fever. Korean and Chinese ginseng are recommended. American ginseng cools down rather than heats up the body. (Keep in mind that ginseng could hinder the effects of some medicines, such as blood thinners, calcium channel blockers or antidepressants. Consult your doctor first.) 




Other warming tips 


Eat. Yes, body temperature can increase by up to two degrees once the digestive process takes place, Paramapoonya states. Well-balanced meals with appropriate portion sizes, plus small, healthy snacks once or twice a day, are recommended.  


Drink? Not so much. While moderate alcohol consumption slightly increases the blood flow to the skin, which creates the sensation of warmth, excessive consumption tends to cause the body to produce a lot of sweat -- which is a quick way to lose body heat.  


No doubt our Southern winter has more punches to deliver in the weeks ahead. Be ready with the yang. The recipes in today's food pages may help. 






Total time: 9 hours 


Makes 6 servings 




6 medium leeks 


4 thick bacon slices 


1 (4- to 4 1/2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed 


2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 


1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 


2 tablespoons olive oil 


3 garlic cloves, minced 


1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 


1 cup dry red wine 


1/3 cup balsamic vinegar 


1 pound carrots, cut into 4-inch sticks 


1 pound parsnips, cut into 4-inch sticks 


1 cup chicken broth 


1 tablespoon cornstarch 


Creamy mushroom grits 


Fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, for garnish 




For creamy mushroom grits: 


1/4 cup butter 


2 each 3.5-ounce packages shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 


1 cup quick-cooking yellow grits 


1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 


1 teaspoon kosher salt 


1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 


1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 




  • Remove and discard root ends and dark green tops of leeks. Cut a slit lengthwise, and rinse thoroughly under cold running water to remove grit and sand. Place leeks in a lightly greased 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. 


  • Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 3 tablespoons hot drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon. 


  • Sprinkle roast with pepper and salt. Add olive oil to hot drippings in skillet. Place roast in skillet, and cook over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer roast to slow cooker, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. 


  • Add garlic to hot drippings, and saute 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, stirring until sugar melts. Add wine and balsamic vinegar, and cook 2 minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Pour mixture over roast; top with carrots and parsnips. 


  • Cover and cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours or until meat shreds easily with a fork. 


  • For the grits, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; add mushrooms. Saute 3 to 4 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Prepare grits per package directions. Stir in Parmesan cheese, kosher salt and pepper. Stir in mushrooms and parsley. 


  • When roast is cooked, transfer it to a cutting board; cut into large chunks, removing any large pieces of fat. Transfer roast and vegetables to a platter and keep warm. 


  • Skim fat from juices in slow cooker, and transfer juices to a 2-quart saucepan. Add broth, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth; add to pan, stirring until blended. Boil 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve gravy with roast and vegetables over creamy mushroom grits. Top with crumbled bacon. 


    (Source:; December 2013) 








    1/2 cup butter 


    2 medium leeks, sliced 


    1/2 cup all-purpose flour 


    1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth  


    3 cups chopped cooked chicken 


    1 1/2 cups frozen cubed hash browns with onions and peppers 


    1 cup matchstick carrots  


    1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 


    1/2 teaspoon salt 


    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 


    1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed 


    1 large egg  




  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add leeks, and saute 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients. 


  • Roll each pastry sheet into a 12-by-10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Fit one sheet into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate; spoon chicken mixture into pastry. Place remaining pastry sheet over filling in opposite direction of bottom sheet; fold edges under, and press with tines of a fork, sealing to bottom crust. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water, and brush over top of pie. 


  • Bake at 375 F. on lower oven rack 55 to 60 minutes or until browned. Let stand 15 minutes. 


    (Source:; February 2011)


  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


    printer friendly version | back to top






    Follow Us:

    Follow Us on Facebook

    Follow Us on Twitter

    Follow Us via Email