Food is medicine. We are what we eat.

In modern western, the emphasis of diet is on the nutritional value, carbohydrates content, calories, fat content and other nutritional values. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we take a step further. Food is classified according to its energetic effects and emphasis is placed on the temperature (nature) of the food and its action.

In TCM, we describe a food’s nature as hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold. Here we are not talking about the actual temperature of the food, but rather the effects it has on our body after consumption. For example, green tea is cool in nature because it generates cooling sensation when we drink, its nature won’t change to hot because it is served hot.

Examples of some foods and their temperatures:
  • Cold: bamboo shoot, chrysanthemum, lotus root, water chestnut, tomato, watermelon, banana, pomelo, persimmon, mulberry, seaweed, kelp, crabs, clams, sprouts, watercress, salt, soya sauce, grapefruit, lemon, rhubarb, tofu
  • Cool: millet, barley, wheat, buckwheat, asparagus, aubergine, cucumber,  Chinese radish, celery, peppermint, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, Chinese cabbage, courgette, mung bean, pears, apple, pineapple, coconut, strawberry, orange, egg white, duck egg
  • Neutral: corn, rice, sweet potato, potato, carrot, beetroot, olive, yam, sesame, peanut, almond, duck, licorice, cow milk
  • Warm: oat, leek, brussels sprout, coriander leaf, kale, pumpkin, parsnip, date, chestnut, walnut, mussel, beef, chicken, pork, butter, basil, cumin, tarmac, parsley, chive, onion, goat milk
  • Hot: lamb, chilli, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, mustard

Whilst there are no absolute rules regarding the temperature of foods, there are a few general ideas –

  • Plants that take long to grow tend to be warmer than fast-growing ones.
  • Foods with high water content tend to be more cooling.
  • Raw foods are more cooling than cooked foods.
  • Dried foods tend to be more warming than fresh ones.
  • Chemically fertilised foods (fast-growing) tend to be cooler than naturally grown ones.
  • Chemicals added to foods may lead to heat.
What about popular green drink?
  • Adding a warm ingredient will bring the vegetable and fruit juice to a better balance, adding fresh ginger, a handful pumpkin seeds, etc. 
  • Drink some warm water in the morning to wake up and warm up digestion before a green drink.
  • Use room temperature water instead of ice water to make green juice.
  • Leave your green drink till room temperature before drinking.

Now over to you, take a minute and think about food temperature next time when you grab something.

Temperature of Foods