© Zbyszek Nowak
Cold foods are foods that have a cooling effect on your body.
They may or may not be cold to the touch - in fact they can be cooked and warm, but still have a chilling effect.
It pays to know about them!
Why? Because you can help your body maintain good health by altering what you eat according to the conditions - the environment - in which you find yourself.
Lots of people make themselves more prone to illness by eating foods that are wrong for their metabolism.
Do Hot foods have the opposite effect? Click here for Hot foods!
From the Western medical or nutritional perspective the Chinese concept of food energy makes no sense.
But from that Chinese medical perspective, a food's energy can have a huge effect on your health. In the short term it may be more important than the food's nutritional effect.
By the way! There are other checks and balances when it comes to food, as considered from the view-point of Chinese medicine. There's more about this on our page on Nutrition.
How you prepare and eat a food can change its energy. Chewing a cold food for a long time reduces its cooling effect a little: cooking it and eating it hot likewise.
Take a melon. Melons are watery fruits that grow naturally in warm countries. They are delicious when eaten in summer when it's hot.
They have a cooling effect. You wouldn't normally think of eating a melon to warm you up!
But what would happen if you put the melon under the hot grill?
Grilling it would boil off some of the water in the melon, concentrating its action and possibly charring it a bit. That puts some heat into it and, if eaten warm, the melon would certainly be less cooling than before. But in terms of Chinese medicine, it would still be cooling.
Cooking a cold food does reduce its cooling effect, a little.
Even if eaten cold, in Chinese medicine roast lamb is still warming, just not as warming as it would have been if eaten when hot.
Copyright Olekssi Afanasiev Dreamstime
What if you find there is nothing to eat except cold foods? Perhaps you are offered a dish containing no hot food, nor anything hot to the touch.
What to do?
First, many foods that are cold to the touch are actually warming or even heating in their effect! For example:
Surprisingly, they can even have a cooling effect when first eaten! Why? Because if eaten cold, and if your digestion is very yang deficient, that food may burrow its way right down through you to re-appear as diarrhoea within a few hours.
But if you are not yang deficient, or you chew them well before swallowing, the food's heating effect will appear in various ways, for example -
Even so, chewing is best! Otherwise the food goes straight through you and uses your energy, offering little in return because your body doesn't absorb it.
If your host offers you only foods classified as cold, for example a cold starter, a salad for the main course, followed by fruit salad afterwards, then if you are very yang deficient,
This way, you warm your tubes both before and afterwards.
If you have to eat many hot or very warming foods, even someone yang deficient should make sure to include some cool foods to balance.
Equally, if you are naturally blessed with good circulation and usually feel warm when others feel cold, then you will probably benefit from eating more cool or cold foods, to keep you in balance.
This list will never be complete because new foods are always being discovered, and the Chinese didn't have access to many of our modern Western foods.
It sometimes takes time to assess the energy of a food.
Also, you may react differently to a food than others. So beware individual reactions.
If you are very sensitive or even allergic to a food, its effect will be more warming than cooling.
Foods below are classified according to the typeface used:
The more often you eat a cool food, the more cooling it becomes.
NB Ice cream is made up of dairy foods and sugar that are frozen. But the dairy foods are mostly warming, so although you feel cold to start with, the after-effect is often warming. However, if you are yang deficient, don't count on this! Better to avoid it altogether or at least until you feel better. Even in warm climates, take ice-cream only occasionally and when you are hot.
Most vegetables are neutral ie slightly warming or cooling. Root vegetables tend to be warming if eaten with their skins.
Other useful pages
If you like this page, you may also like these:
If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.
If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.
Please note! The Kindle editions are less easy to read! Although the paper editions cost more, they are much easier to read and to refer back and forth to the contents and index.
Here are some of the books Jonathan has written:
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