Heaty and cooling foods - What do they really mean?
Blog

Heaty and cooling foods - What do they really mean?

Most Chinese would grow up hearing their parents asking them to stop eating potato chips, junk food or fried food because these foods are 'heaty'. Everything seems to relate to 'heatiness'. From stress to sleeping late to getting a sore throat or itchy eyes, it seems our parents just love to use 'heat' as a reason, which makes zero sense to us. 

What is 'heaty' or 'cooling'?

'Heaty' relates to 'yang' while 'cooling' relates to 'yin' in a body. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) refers heaty food as bringing heat to the body, thereby improving circulation and dispels chills. Over eating 'heaty' food will cause hot flushes, bad breath, sore throat, acne and ulcers. 

On the opposite spectrum, 'cooling' foods reduces heat in the body, and helps in detoxing the body and removing the toxins. Too much cooling food will actually make you feel intolerant to cold weathers, giving rise to sore muscles, fatigues and cold limbs. 

Is 'heaty' or 'cooling' better?

Neither is good. The best is a balance between 'yin' and 'yang' from the TCM stand point. 

So which types of food should I eat more?

That depends on your body constitution!

Most people's bodies are 'innately' heaty, which means whenever we eat too much durians or chocolates, we tend to get ulcers or cough. Thus, for this group of 'yin' deficient constitution, we should eat more 'cooling' foods that have refreshing taste and usually requires minimal heating, such as:

  • Green tea, sugar cane, water chestnut drink
  • Oysters, beancurds
  • Salads, lettuce, broccoli
  • Most fruits particularly mangosteens and watermelons 
  • Nuts such as almonds without skin and coconuts

If you are prone to get runny nose, flu, colds and have to wear thick jacket everywhere, your body is likely to be 'yang' deficient. You should eat more 'heaty' foods that require more heating, such as:

  • Red meat such as beef and mutton
  • Baked and deep fried foods
  • Durians, jackfruits, mangoes
  • Garlic, ginger, chocolates, biscuits
  • Spicy dishes like curry, chilli, black pepper
  • Most nuts such as macadamias, cashew and pistachios

These 'heat' or 'cooling' terms do not refer to the state of the food, but rather the effects the foods can generate to our body. The best is to have a balance in your diet and achieve yin-yang equilibrium so you will not be vulnerable to sickness. For example, complement fried rice (heaty) with a glass of green tea (cooling) so that you do not feel any effects from the imbalance of energy.

How about western point of view?

The western medicine recommends a moderation of all foods and do not have such principles. However, some modern doctors do believe in the effects of foods to our bodies and will incorporate and integrate some TCM logic to their prescription. 

Now that you know more about food, you will understand why people like to take durians with mangosteens!