If you are familiar with Chinese culture, you may have heard of body ailments linked back to the body being too heaty or too cooling. For instance, if you have been breaking out in acne, it must be because you have been eating too much oily food! Or if you often feel cold and lethargic, you may need to consume less cooling foods.
The Meaning of Heaty and Cooling
Heaty or cooling in this case does not refer to your body temperature! Instead, it refers to the state of the body where there is excess yang energy (heaty) or excess yin energy (cold).
If your body is heaty, you might have a flushed complexion. Acne outbreaks are very common symptoms of heatiness in the body. You may also have a dry mouth, bad breath, sore throat, and constipation. When passing urine, the color may often be dark or yellow due to the build-up of toxins.
If you have a cool body constitution, you might be sensitive to cold temperatures and easily feel cold. Other characteristics include a pale complexion, cold hands and feet, low energy, and bloating after food.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, external and internal factors can contribute to the body being excessively hot or cold. Weather and diet are examples of external factors. Hot weathers may worsen heatiness in the body by raising yang energy, thereby causing heat strokes and rashes. Eating too much heaty food, which are typically high in calories and fried at high temperatures, can contribute to heatiness in the body.
Internal factors refer to a person’s natural body constitution. For example, some people have naturally “cool” bodies and are more prone to display cooling symptoms. They would also be able to consume lots of heaty foods without developing heatiness in the body.
Heaty, Cooling and… Neutral Food?
Unlike how food is broken down in the West as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, TCM groups food into warming (yang), cooling (yin) and neutral. As the name suggests, each food group has a different effect on our body.
Heaty foods generate heat in the body, stimulate blood circulation, and eliminates cold. A good example of heaty foods is foods that grow underground, such as ginger and Chinese yam.
- Seafood and meat: Chicken, lamb, ham, prawns, lobster, sea cucumber, deer, eel
- Vegetables: Squash, pumpkin, onion, leek, chivesFruits: Raspberry, guava, coconut, chestnut, cherry, apricot, durian, jackfruit
- Beverages and condiments: Butter, garlic, coffee, chili, cinnamon, black pepper, basil, rosemary, brown sugar
Cooling foods cool the body down, nourish yin energy and clears toxins from the body. What are some examples of cooling food? Look for foods that grow in the water, such as spinach and seaweed. Cooling foods also often low in calories.
- Seafood and meat: Pork, crab and clams
- Vegetables: Cucumber, bittergourd, spinach, celery, lotus, watercress and asparagus
- Fruits: Apple, orange, bananas, kiwifruit, lemon, pear, watermelon
- Beverages and condiments: Green tea, chrysanthemum tea, peppermint tea, salt, soya sauce
Neutral foods are neither warming nor cooling, hence they are suitable for anybody’s constitutions. Most staple foods such as rice, potatoes, and carrots are neutral foods.
- Seafood and meat: Eggs, abalone, milk, duck, oyster, scallop
- Vegetables: black and white fungus, turnips, corn, Chinese cabbage
- Fruits: Papaya, plum, grapes, berries, goji berries, figs
- Beverages and condiments: Honey, sugar, licorice, saffron
Heaty vs Cooling
Often people misunderstand and perceive cooling food and drinks to be better than heat-causing foods. From a TCM point of view, neither heaty nor cooling foods are superior to each other, but rather both form a delicate balance of yin and yang energies in the body, to allow bodily functions to run optimally.
A healthy body is a body in balance. Excessive consumption of both heaty and cooling foods can spur the body out of balance, leading to common illnesses. Going overboard with heaty foods usually results in high blood pressure, acne, sore throat, fever, and mouth ulcers. On the other hand, too much cooling food causes muscle aches, fatigue, and poor blood circulation.
For years, TCM practitioners have harnessed the warming and cooling properties of food to restore an imbalanced constitution back to equilibrium. A person who has excessive heaty body constitution is encouraged to consume more cooling foods and vice versa.
But before you consume heaty or cooling food, you should have an in-depth understanding of your own body constitution first. Sometimes, an individual may have a combination of both heaty and cooling symptoms. It is always important to consult a certified TCM physician to get an accurate diagnosis, as individual symptoms may differ from person to person due to different body constitutions.
If you are unsure of your own body constitution type, give the highly trained and experienced TCM physicians at Joyre TCMedi Spa a call at 9230 0355 for a free TCM consultation and diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the condition, our TCM physicians may recommend herbal remedies, acupuncture, or cupping treatment to ease your symptoms and restore balance in your body.