Every food has a basic pattern of thermal effect that can influence the body. Foods can warm the body, heat it, they can have a refreshing effect on the body or cool it significantly. Foods can also leave the body temperatures unchanged.
These effects cannot be detected in the sense of a measurable temperature increase. When eating a Chili con carne, we can sense a distinct feeling of heat, perhaps we even sweat on the forehead, but our body temperature does not rise to a feverish level. When eating watermelons or honey melons in winter, which are naturally cooling, it can lead to diarrhea.
According to TCM, every food and drink has a thermal effect.
Neutral: symbolizes the center and balance; none of the conflicting energies dominate; a quiet base is created.
Cold: creates cold in the body. Cold slows down processes and easily causes stagnation, it cools heating processes and soothes an excited Shen (Spirit).
Cool: builds up the bodily fluids. It holds the Yin together and spares the reserves, keeps the Spirit in his habitation and tonifies the blood.
Warm: strengthens the actively developing energies, the Yang and the Qi. It warms the body and keeps harmful wind-cold influences at bay.
Hot: is a violent influence that strongly stimulates and accelerates the Yang. Excessive heat produces harmful heat and dries out the bodily fluids.
Grains / Legumes / Nuts
|Wheat, soy bean sprouts, tofu, barley, buckwheat, amaranth, mung beans|
Rye, oats, round grain rice, corn, spelt, peas, lentils, sesame, soy beans, Adzuki beans, Kidney beans, peanuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts
Dandelion, green salad, asparagus, seaweeds, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts
|Cucumber, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, eggplant, mushrooms, courgette, radish, red cabbage, spinach, beetroot|
Carrots, potatoes, white cabbage, cauliflower, avocado, Shiitake
Fennel, leek, onion, chives, oyster mushrooms
|Banana, Melon (water melon and honey melon), kaki, star fruit, kiwi||Pear, apple, lemon, grapefruit, pineapple, strawberries, orange, mango||Plums, grapes, papaya, apricots, figs|
Pomegranate, peach, cherries, raspberries, mandarin, lychee
Horse meat, crabs, snails, yoghurt, quark
|Octopus, rabbit, bunny, butter, cream cheese||Liver (beef), goose, pig, quail, pigeon, saltwater fish, herring, perch, carp, squid, oysters, chicken eggs, cow milk, cream, cheese, quark||Beef, duck, chicken, ham, sheep, goat, game, deer, seafood, (shrimp, crayfish), eel, salmon, anchovies, egg yolks, sheep milk, goat milk||Lamb, trout|
|Salt, soy sauce||Sesame oil, olive oil, sunflower oil||Saffron, liquorice, peanut oil||Coriander, star anise, nutmeg, cloves, cardamon, brown sugar, white sugar, honey, vinegar, carob, rapeseed oil||Black pepper, chilli, cinnamon|
|Stimulants||Ice||Green tea, peppermint tea||White wine, beer||Red wine, sparkling wine, coffee, hot chocolate, black tea||Tobacco, high-percentage spirits (whiskey, mulled wine, brandy)|
The Techniques of Change
Heat it up:
- cooking, stewing, steaming, simmering, blanching, baking
- chop, rub, puree, mash
- Inserting it in vinegar, drying (e.g. dried fruits, herbs)
- Inserting it into alcohol
Noticeably making it warmer – hot:
- Barbecuing, roasting, frying, deep-frying, preparing in alcohol
- Use of hot spices
Cooling it down:
- leaving it to germinate, putting it in water, inserting it in soy sauce
Noticeably making it cooler – cold:
- Freezing, putting it in salt
Apple is cooling. When cooked as compote it is neutral. By adding cinnamon and cloves, the compote is warming.
Beef is warming. By searing it as a steak, it becomes heating.
Cucumber juice or celery juice is more easily tolerated in heating conditions. The production of juice energetically warms the pressed vegetables.
Lentils are neutral. Germination make them cooling.
Raw tomatoes are cold, according to TCM. Cooking them to make a sauce or soup will make them warmer and have a slightly cooling to neutral effect.
- Raw vegetables and fruits tend to be cooler than cooked ones.
- Food that is consumed cold have more cooling properties than the same food in a warm, freshly prepared state.
- Chemically treated and modified food, which is grown more rapidly, often has more of a cooling effect than untreated, naturally grown food.
- Plants that need a long time to grow, such as parsnips and carrots, have a warmer nature than a plant that grows fast, such as leaf lettuce or herbs.
- Different preparation techniques change the thermal nature of the same foods.
- Neutral thermal foods should be the main part of our daily diet, i.e. cooked grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fats.