Hot foods taste great! They add to our enjoyment and some spices have considerable health benefits ... but ...
... you can have too much of a good thing! In Chinese medicine, too many heating foods have adverse effects - see Stomach Fire.
As individuals from different cultures, we react differently.
Someone brought up in South India, where the curries are strong, or Mexico, were the chilli can be explosive, copes better with spicy foods than your typical North European, for example.
Also, some people react with heat to foods classified as cold. (Want to know about the opposite of hot foods? Click Cold Foods!)
Some Western foods are unfamiliar to Chinese medicine, so their effect has not been seen for long enough to know how heating or cooling they are.
Every food has an energetic as well as a nutritional value.
The Western medical approach to food is nutritional, calculating the percentage of a food that is protein, carbohydrate, oil etc, and the specific ingredients such as vitamins and minerals.
Chinese medicine lacked the means for this kind of investigation, so they watched, for hundreds of years, what effect foods had on people.
Their approach to food is sophisticated. Read more under Nutrition.
When people mostly produced symptoms of Heat, they classified the foods that produced this as being heating. 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 much hot food makes 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, or if not a measurable fever a sensation of heat, dryness, soreness (think 'sore throat'), and grumpiness.
If so, usually it's best to let your body fight its 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
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.
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 faster over time, but if it's fresh, its effect will appear faster when you take it.
How you eat something makes a difference:
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: a food omitted may be heating.
Chinese medicine is very sophisticated.
This site is just an introduction to it all, and within Chinese medicine nutrition is very important.
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.
All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)
('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)
If, having read one of my books you can write a review - preferably positive - that would help others decide whether to read it.
You can put your review on Amazon or, on this site, here.
And if you think it was terrible?
Well, let me know so I can improve it for the next person. (Ideally let me know before cursing it in public!)
Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.
Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.
Six Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
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