Each type of food has its own unique characteristics. Since ancient times, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have used the warming and cooling nature of foods to balance the body’s yin and yang – to prevent and treat disease.

The Thermal Nature Of Common Foods

The ancient Chinese medicine practitioners discovered that most foods have either cooling or warming characteristics. When you eat cooling foods, they are adding cooling effects to your body and eating warm foods will add warming effects to your body. Therefore, warming and cooling foods can be used to balance the body which may be deficient in yin or yang.

Chinese medicine has categorised many common foods into three thermal natures:

  1. Cooling foods
  2. Warming foods
  3. Neutral foods (neither cool nor warm)

Cooling Foods

Cooling food has effects of clearing heat and toxins, cooling and calming the blood and nourishing yin. These types of food are suitable for people who have heat constitution of the body. Usually these people have the following symptoms: The body feeling hot, perspiration, thirst, constipation, pungent odourous wind and stools, burning of the anus area after bowl movement, anxiety, red eyes, red face, emotional, head aches, vivid dreams, ulcers in the mouth or tongue, cold sores around the mouth, red tongue with a thick yellow coating on the tongue, rapid pulse, heart burn and dark or yellow urine.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, the following cooling foods are suitable to be eaten:

Fruits Vegetables Grains & Legumes Meat & Dairy Spices & Drinks
Apple
Banana
Grapefruit
Kiwifruit
Lemon
Orange
Pear
Persimmon
Pineapple
Pomelo
Star fruit
Strawberry
Watermelon
Alfalfa sprouts
Asparagus
Bamboo shoots
Bean sprouts (Taugeh)
Bitter Gourd
Celery
Chinese Radish (Daikon)
Cucumber
Eggplant
Green leafy vegetables
Kelp / Seaweed
Lettuce
Lotus Root
Mushroom
Spinach
Swiss chard
Tomato
Water chestnut
Watercress
Winter Melon
Barley
Buckwheat
Millet
Mung Bean
Soy Bean
Tofu
Wheat bran
Whole wheat
Clam
Cheese
Chicken Egg
Crab
Cream
Duck Egg
Kelp
Rabbit
Seaweed
Yoghurt
Chrysanthemum Tea
Green Tea
Peppermint Tea
Salt
Sesame oil
Soya sauce

Warming Foods

Warming foods have the effects of raising the yang, energy (qi) of organs and warming and improving the circulation and dispelling the cold. These types of food are suitable for people who are yang deficient. Usually with the following symptoms; cold hand, cold feet, cold body, diarrhea, stomach pains or discomfort after eating or drinking cold things, bloating after eating, lack of energy, sore joints, oedema and fluid retention.

If you have any of the following symptoms listed above, it is suitable to eat more of the following warming foods:

Fruits Vegetables Grains & Legumes Meat & Dairy Spices & Drinks
Apricot
Cherry
Chestnut
Chinese Red Dates
Coconut meat
Coconut milk
Guava
Hawthorn Fruit
Longan
Lychee
Mandarin peel (dried)
Mango
Nectarine
Peach
Raspberry
Chives
Leek
Mustard greens
Onion
Pumpkin
Spring onion
Squash
Chestnut
Fennel
Glutinous Rice
Malt
Pine nut
Pistachio nut
Walnut
Butter
Chicken
Deer (Venison)
Eel
Goat Milk
Ham
Lamb
Mussels
Prawns (shrimp)
Sea cucumber
Basil
Black pepper
Brown Sugar
Chilli
Cinnamon
Clove
Coffee
Coriander
Cumin
Fennel seed
Garlic
Ginger
Ginseng
Jasmine tea
Mustard
Nutmeg
Rosemary
Spearmint
Vinegar
Wine

Neutral Foods

Neutral foods are suitable for general nutrition and generally do not adversely affect the body’s Yin or Yang balance. They are therefore suitable for general consumption for any body type:

Fruits Vegetables Grains & Legumes Meat & Dairy Spices & Drinks
Figs
Goji Berries
Grape
Olive
Papaya
Plum
Black fungus mushrooms
Carrot
Chinese cabbage
Corn
Potato
Pumpkin
Shiitake mushroom
Sweet potato
Taro
Turnip
White fungus
Adzuki Bean
Almond
Black sesame seed
Black soybean
Broad bean
Kidney bean
Lotus seed
Peanut
Peas
Rice bran
Rye
String bean
Sunflower seed
White rice
Yellow soybean
Abalone
Beef
Cow’s milk
Duck
Fish
Oyster
Pork
Scallop
Peanut oil
Honey
Saffron
Licorice

The food we eat every day affects our body’s balance. In the clinic we find that many diseases are caused, or made worse by eating the wrong foods. Therefore it is important to know your own body’s constitution so you can find out what foods are best for you. If you do not know your constitution you can make a visit to an experienced TCM practitioner to find out.

Traditional Chinese medicine also believes that during different seasons we should eat more certain cooling or warming foods which can help to combat the changing weather. As Chinese medicine also considers that the human body and health are associated with the environment, so changes in the weather can affect our body and therefore our health.

For example, in summer, it is very hot and dry, which can cause the body to acquire heat and can dry out our body leading to dry skin, constipation and lack of fluid in the body. Thus if we eat more cooling food, it can balance the body which has been attacked by the hot summer.

Usually we suggest you to eat local seasonal fruit and vegetables as they are most suitable for the body during a particular season.

The Thermal Nature Of Common Foods
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