When people mostly produced symptoms of Heat, they classified the foods that produced this as being heating – hot foods! That’s what’s on this page.
Foods have not just cold or hot values. There are many other classifications for food, including whether it is moistening or drying and into which acupuncture meridian a food is said to ‘enter’.
For health, the Chinese approach recommends foods that help your body to balance its natural tendencies.
For example, if you are naturally a ‘warm’ person, with good circulation, warm hands and feet, who wears less than others, then you may be eating too much warming food and would be better eating more cooling food. For you, too many hot foods make you sick.
Conversely, if you have poor circulation and often feel cold, you should eat more warming foods. But even for you, too many very hot foods would be a mistake: warming foods would be best.
Too much hot food dries and heats your body in ways that appear to you as – for example –
Illness introduces another complication. Often, when sick, your body’s genetic inheritance programmes it to produce various forms of heat.
This comes out as fever. If it’s not a measurable fever it may be a sensation of heat, dryness, soreness (think ‘sore throat’), and grumpiness.
If so, usually it’s best to let your body fight its own fight if you can.
Don’t load it up with cold foods, because they’ll slow it down. Nor should you force down too many hot foods because they may add needless heat to the situation – which means more suffering for you!
When your body is producing signs of Heat as it fights its battle, usually the best thing is to give it
fluids (warm, not cold – hence the importance of tea in Chinese medicine) and
in more severe fevers, simple mildly cool foods like fruit (hence the popularity of grapes as a gift to the infirm!).
But we’re all different and whereas grapes might suit me, you might be better off with a warm mug of water in which you’ve steeped a slice of ginger root for a while. This combination helps your Spleen and Stomach energies.
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Here are some of the foods that heat. They are graded according to their typeface:
The following are the foods most likely to be your downfall, though each of us reacts differently to individual foods: what might be heating for me might be merely warming for you.
The more often you eat something warming the more heating its effect. In other words, the heat accumulates.
Also, the following are only approximate grades of hot foods and one could argue over the precise level of heating of each one of them. For example, most spices tend to lose their heating effect with age, but a few grow stronger for a while.
If a spice is ground to powder it loses its effect over time, and when freshly ground, its effect appears faster when you take it.
How you eat something makes a difference:
Meat taken cold will be less heating than if taken hot.
Gin and tonic with lots of ice and lemon, which are cooling, will be much less heating than gin taken neat.
Fish unless very oily is warming, but if smoked and grilled becomes heating.
Finally, this list of hot foods is incomplete. I just wrote it down from memory and add foods as I think of them. Just because a food isn’t here doesn’t mean it’s not heating. So a food that’s been omitted may be heating.
Hot Foods Chinese Medicine
It’s an unfortunate fact that many ‘hot’ foods are highly indulgent!
alcohol, wine, spirits and fortified wines
black pudding, fried
boiling, in other words, boiled food
butter (brandy butter, even more so – unfortunately – my downfall)
cakes made the British way
cheese varies, depending on fat and concentration: for example cheese nuggets often contain more fats, plus other substances that increase the overall heating effect
chips (assuming covered in fat and fried or roasted)
crisps, packets of snacks
curries, Thai foods, chilli, the stronger the more heating
eating late at night when tired because the food takes longer to be digested so accumulates and creates more heat, like newly cut grass put on a compost heap
eating too fast, or when rushed, or snatching food while working; all tend to weaken your digestion and may make the food more heating, if already a warming food
estrogen (oestrogen) pills seem to be very warming for many women
fats like butter, olive oil, animal fat, coconut oil, dripping: also full-fat ice-cream (although the temperature it is eaten at makes it initially slightly cooling)
foods cooked in fat or deep-fried
garlic, the stronger the more heating
Ginger is an important herb in Chinese medicine
ginger root: ginger is used in many herbal formulae in Chinese medicine because it strengthens the Stomach and Spleen, which digest food and absorb it into your body – but if you ate nothing but ginger it would become heating
ginger dried powder
meat (beef is considered to be less heating than lamb, but all meat is heating to a greater or lesser extent.)
nuts such as brazil, hazel, almond and peanuts
peppers red or green
processed foods, can be very heating
puddings (but most fruit salads are cooling)
roast or fried meat
root vegetables like carrot, potato
seeds such as apricot and caraway
spices like curry spices or chilli
steaming (some experts think steaming can even be cooling)
sweeteners like sugar are initially warming, but for many have a subsequent cooling action. Artificial sweeteners, being concentrated, have many other effects and are more like medicines. So, be sure to read the page on primary and secondary actions. For more on this, click here.
tobacco smoke, especially if inhaled (I do not have enough experience of the effects of electronic cigarettes but expect they will be heating)