5 Healthiest Chinese Soups & Their TCM Perspectives

by Ella

Chinese cuisine is renowned for its diverse and intricate flavors, with a strong emphasis on incorporating ingredients that promote health and well-being. Among the various culinary delights that China has to offer, soups hold a special place. Chinese soups are not only delicious and comforting but also known for their potential health benefits. In this article, we embark on a journey to uncover the healthiest Chinese soup, delving into traditional recipes and exploring the nutritional aspects that make them stand out.

Historical Significance

Chinese soups have a history that spans millennia, deeply intertwined with the cultural, social, and medicinal aspects of China. Ancient Chinese texts, such as the “Huangdi Neijing” (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon), dating back to over two thousand years, emphasize the importance of food and its impact on health. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles have greatly influenced the evolution of Chinese soups, with an emphasis on the interconnectedness of body, mind, and environment.


Holistic Approach

At the heart of Chinese soups is a holistic approach that goes beyond mere sustenance. Traditional Chinese medicine views the body as a complex system that is in constant interaction with the environment. Chinese soups are crafted with the intention of achieving harmony within this system, promoting balance between Yin and Yang energies, and facilitating the flow of Qi (vital energy). This holistic perspective extends to the choice of ingredients, cooking methods, and even the timing of consuming these soups.


Ingredient Selection and Combination

The art of creating Chinese soups lies in the meticulous selection and combination of ingredients. Ingredients are chosen not only for their flavors but also for their inherent medicinal properties. These ingredients are classified based on their tastes (sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty) and their thermal nature (cooling, neutral, and warming) according to TCM principles. The goal is to achieve a balance of flavors and energies that target specific health concerns.


Sour: Supports the liver and aids digestion.


Bitter: Clears heat, dries dampness, and promotes detoxification.

Sweet: Nourishes the spleen and harmonizes the body.

Spicy: Disperses stagnation and promotes circulation of Qi.

Salty: Softens hardness, benefits the kidneys, and promotes fluid balance.

For instance, soups made with cooling ingredients like watermelon and mung beans are believed to counteract excessive heat and inflammation in the body. On the other hand, soups with warming ingredients like ginger and cinnamon can invigorate circulation and digestion. The synergy created by the combination of various ingredients results in a soup that not only tantalizes the taste buds but also supports well-being.

The Top Contenders: Nutrient-Rich Chinese Soups

1. Chicken Herbal Soup

The Chicken Herbal Soup stands out as one of the healthiest options in the realm of Chinese soups. This soup combines the goodness of lean chicken with a variety of Chinese herbs that are believed to have therapeutic properties. Some common herbs used in this soup include Chinese dates, goji berries, and astragalus root. These herbs are known to boost the immune system, improve digestion, and enhance overall vitality.

The Marriage of Ingredients

At the heart of the Chicken Herbal Soup is the delicate interplay between lean chicken meat and an array of traditional Chinese herbs. The choice of herbs is crucial, as they are selected based on their medicinal properties and compatibility with the chicken’s flavors. Common herbs used in this soup include:

Chinese Dates (Jujube): These sweet and nourishing fruits are believed to enhance digestion, promote relaxation, and strengthen the spleen and stomach.

Astragalus Root (Huang Qi): Known for its immune-boosting properties, astragalus root is believed to invigorate Qi (vital energy) and support overall vitality.

Goji Berries (Wolfberries): These antioxidant-rich berries are associated with promoting eye health, improving circulation, and enhancing the immune system.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

The Chicken Herbal Soup aligns with traditional Chinese medicine principles, focusing on harmonizing Yin and Yang energies within the body. The combination of ingredients, each with its unique thermal nature and flavor profile, creates a balanced and synergistic effect. The herbs chosen often have warming properties, making this soup ideal for the colder months or for individuals seeking to balance excess Yin energy.

See Also: Chinese Chicken Herbal Soup Homemade Recipe – Easy & Authentic!

2. Seaweed and Tofu Soup

Seaweed and Tofu Soup offers a treasure trove of essential nutrients. Seaweed is rich in iodine, which supports thyroid function and metabolism. Tofu, on the other hand, provides plant-based protein and minerals like calcium and iron. This soup is not only light and flavorful but also a great option for vegetarians looking to incorporate adequate protein and micronutrients into their diet.

Nutritional Richness

Seaweed, which comes in various types such as wakame, kombu, and nori, is prized for its high mineral content, particularly iodine, which supports thyroid function and metabolism. Seaweed is also a natural source of vitamins like A, C, and K, as well as dietary fiber, which aids digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness.

Tofu, made from soybeans, is a well-known plant-based protein that is rich in essential amino acids. It also contains iron, calcium, and magnesium, contributing to bone health and overall vitality. Tofu’s natural mild flavor makes it an ideal canvas for absorbing the essence of the other ingredients in the soup.

Balancing Yin and Yang

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the Seaweed and Tofu Soup embodies balance. Tofu, with its neutral nature, harmonizes well with both warming and cooling ingredients. Seaweed, known for its cooling properties, counterbalances the neutral nature of tofu, creating a harmonious blend that supports equilibrium within the body’s Yin and Yang energies.

See Also: 15 Minutes Super Simple Chinese Seaweed Soup

3. Mushroom and Barley Soup

Mushroom and Barley Soup is a fiber-rich option that brings together the earthy flavors of mushrooms and the nourishing benefits of barley. Mushrooms are renowned for their immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties. Barley, a whole grain, adds a hearty texture to the soup while providing a good dose of dietary fiber, promoting digestive health and satiety.

Nutritional Powerhouse

Mushrooms, ranging from shiitake to oyster varieties, are a source of unique bioactive compounds such as beta-glucans and antioxidants. These compounds are believed to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and promote overall well-being. Mushrooms also provide a spectrum of B-vitamins, which play a crucial role in energy metabolism and nervous system health.

Barley, a whole grain rich in dietary fiber, offers benefits for digestion and heart health. The soluble fiber in barley helps regulate blood sugar levels and contributes to a feeling of fullness, making it an excellent addition for those seeking weight management.

Holistic Nourishment

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the Mushroom and Barley Soup embodies principles of balance and nourishment. Mushrooms are often considered to have earthy properties that help anchor Yang energy, while barley’s hearty nature provides grounding and support. This balance is believed to harmonize the body’s energies and contribute to overall vitality.

4. Ginseng Herbal Soup

Ginseng, often referred to as the “king of herbs” in traditional Chinese medicine, takes center stage in this soup. Ginseng Herbal Soup is believed to enhance energy levels, improve cognitive function, and promote overall vitality. This soup usually combines ginseng with ingredients like jujube dates and chicken to create a harmonious blend of flavors and health benefits.

The Power of Ginseng

Central to the Ginseng Herbal Soup is the prized root of the ginseng plant. Revered as the “king of herbs” in traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng is renowned for its adaptogenic properties – the ability to help the body adapt to stressors and restore balance. Ginseng is believed to invigorate Qi (vital energy), nourish the Yin and Yang energies, and strengthen the body’s resilience.

Harmonizing Ingredients

Ginseng is rarely used alone; it is often combined with a carefully curated selection of herbs and ingredients that synergistically enhance its effects. Some common additions to Ginseng Herbal Soup include:

Jujube Dates (Da Zao): These sweet and nourishing fruits support digestion and provide a soothing effect on the body.

Chinese Yam (Huai Shan): Known for its tonifying properties, Chinese yam nourishes the spleen, lung, and kidney energies.

Chicken or Pork: These protein sources complement the herbal blend and add depth to the soup’s flavor while contributing to overall nourishment.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Wisdom

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the Ginseng Herbal Soup embodies the principles of tonification and balance. TCM views health as a state of harmonious balance between Yin and Yang energies. Ginseng, with its warming nature, is used to replenish Yang energy and invigorate bodily functions. The combination of herbs in this soup aims to restore equilibrium and promote holistic vitality.

5. Lycium Berry and Pork Liver Soup

For those seeking a nutrient-rich soup with a unique twist, Lycium Berry and Pork Liver Soup might be the answer. Lycium berries, also known as goji berries, are rich in antioxidants and are believed to support eye health. When combined with pork liver, a source of iron and vitamin A, this soup becomes a nutritional powerhouse that caters to both taste and health.

Nutrient-Rich Powerhouse

Lycium Berries: are renowned for their antioxidant content, particularly beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, which contribute to eye health and overall well-being. These berries also contain vitamins C and E, offering immune support and promoting healthy skin.

Pork Liver: a nutrient-dense organ meat, is rich in iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and protein. Iron is essential for oxygen transport and energy production, while vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision, immune function, and skin health.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Wisdom

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the Lycium Berry and Pork Liver Soup embodies the principles of tonification and balance. Lycium berries are considered to nourish the Yin energy and promote kidney and liver health. Pork liver, in TCM, is associated with supporting blood and Qi (vital energy), making it a valuable addition to enhance overall vitality.

Cooking Methods: The Key to Preserving Nutrients

While the choice of ingredients plays a significant role in determining the healthiness of a Chinese soup, the cooking method employed is equally crucial. Traditional Chinese cooking methods focus on preserving the nutritional content of the ingredients while infusing the soup with flavors. Commonly used methods include:

1. Double Boiling

Double boiling involves slow-cooking the soup in a double-layered pot, allowing the flavors to meld while retaining the nutrients. This method is often used for soups that contain delicate ingredients like herbs and fruits.

2. Simmering

Simmering is a gentle cooking technique that involves cooking the soup over low heat for an extended period. This method helps extract the maximum flavors and nutrients from the ingredients without subjecting them to high temperatures that could lead to nutrient loss.

3. Steaming

Steaming is commonly used for soups that require precise cooking times for specific ingredients. It’s an ideal method for preserving the color, texture, and nutritional value of vegetables and proteins.


Chinese soups offer a delightful blend of flavors, tradition, and health benefits. Among the various options available, the healthiest Chinese soup is not a singular choice but rather a selection of soups that cater to different nutritional needs and preferences. From Chicken Herbal Soup to Seaweed and Tofu Soup, each option brings its unique set of nutrients and potential health advantages to the table.

When considering the healthiest Chinese soup, it’s essential to focus on the nutritional content, cooking methods, and alignment with traditional Chinese medicine principles. Ultimately, the healthiness of a Chinese soup lies in its ability to nourish the body, balance its energies, and provide a satisfying culinary experience. So, the next time you savor a bowl of Chinese soup, remember that you’re not just indulging in a delicious dish, but also partaking in a time-honored tradition that celebrates both taste and well-being.



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