I was having dinner with one of my close friend and his family (wife & son), and I brought up the topic of heaty vs cooling food. Unfortunately his wife from China had not much idea on this. She asked if I have a pictorial guide to this.

My personal experience is, not knowing about our food preference (heaty or cooling food) is going to ruin our health. I’m a good example of it. When I was young, I had a strong preference towards cooling food and my mum wasn’t always there to guide me, so I ended up with a cooling body type. A cooling body type is generally weaker than a heaty body type. How your body turns out that way, mostly attributed to DNA and food preference. Thus, knowing that mother plays an important role in a kid’s food preference, I went back to prepare a picture guide for my friend’s wife.

I did a lot of research on it before putting the guide together but in the process, I learn a lot too. The Chinese broadly categorized food into 2 types; heaty & cooling food. This was first mentioned in the earliest Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) book called “Huangdi NeiJing” (The Emperor’s Internal Essence). Heaty food are food that will build you up. Food that will push your body to create internal hot energy (yang energy). Cooling food are food that will push your body to create internal cold energy (yin energy). Now, for those of you who do not understand the energy concept of yin yang, I can’t explain in further details either. In fact, I don’t really understand it much myself but I trust that the old Chinese wisdom is a lot more advanced than most people’s understanding. Why do I say that? Because, this particular book is now used as the top reference for TCM. Also, over the years, the heaty & cooling food concept has been proven many times over, although not with precise measurement or experiment, mostly through experiences. I believe the yin energy & yang energy has mostly got to do with the ions created by our body after we eat the food (maybe).

Heaty food or Yang food are chilli, pepper, ginseng, red dates, ginger, onions, garlic, beef, mutton, nuts, ginseng, durian, mango, etc. Cooling food or Yin food are tofu, cucumber, tea (all types except for black tea), yogurt, barley, radish, bitter gourd, crab, watermelon, watercress soup, beer, mangosteen, salted vegetables, pear, etc. The list is long and its probably hard for you to group them together. Also, besides the nature of the food itself, how it is prepared will affect its heatyness. For example, if a crab is deep fried, it turns slightly Yang (heaty). And if beef is slowly stew over slow fire to make soup, it turns slightly Yin (cooling). Using different method of cooking, we can make a more energy balanced meal for our love ones. Spicy & sourish food are generally heaty and salty food are generally cooling. So, for heaty meat, such as beef & mutton, a good way of cooking them are to stew them over slow fire or make soup out of them. A not so good one, is to mix it with too many spices (pepper, chilli, garlic) and deep-fried them. The food then becomes too Yang (heaty) and anyone who eats it will get the heaty symptoms ( I will discuss later). Unless, he eats it with something cooling. Beef rendang is one of my favourite dish but the way it is cooked is on the Yang side. Therefore, to eat beer rendang, it is advisable to have something cooling to balance the energy. Have some milk tea, yogurt or barley drink to go with beef rendang, would be best.

A good advice is to always try to maintain the energy balance in your own body. If you are heaty (Yang), you will have the following symptoms:-

– mouth ulcer. swollen gum. easily bit yourself on the inner mouth.

– bad breath.

– sore throat or swollen tonsils.

– swollen nerves. with this, you probably have neck, shoulder or chest pain.

– migraine.

– nose bleed.

– skin rashes or acne popping up.

– hot flushes and heat circulating inside body. bad-tempered easily.

– insomnia, mind is too active to get to sleep.

Basically, these symptoms appear because your body is trying to expel out extra heat in your body. However, if you had too much of Yin food, the cooling symptoms are:-

– lethargic, gets tired easily.

– restless, unable to concentrate.

– pale looking due to bad blood circulation.

– gets cold easily, body unable to withstand chill

– breaking out cold sweat due to cold internal energy.

– diarrhea

As you can see from the symptoms, it is better to be on the Yang side than on the Yin side. Chinese medical knowledge always encourage us to build up our body (eat more Yang food), as long as we can sustain the energy. However, besides food, our daily activity also increases our body’s heatyness. For example, if we are under pressure, stayed up late, used too much of our concentration (work too hard), gets angry often, etc. Therefore, the importance of cooling food is there. As we are all working and constantly under pressure, we are always increasing our body heatyness inevitably. So, we need to eat some cooling food often to keep this Yang energy in check. For example, if you are working night-shift and you are always having migraine or neck-pain, it makes sense to deduct that your body is too heaty. It will help reduce your migraine/neck pain if you have some cooling food. Try it.

I have observed that most heaty or cooling food combination comes naturally as human find their food. For example, if someone is having beer (cooling), it is normal for him to have something heaty (fried chicken or peanuts). For Indians, if they are having curry, they will usually have some yogurt to go with it. However, I do notice that such logic is sometimes not followed, and so, it is important for people to take note. I noticed Indonesian tend to break such food balance rule. They tend to like to eat beef (Yang) together with chilli (Yang). Fried rice is already heaty (due to the way it is prepared), but they eat it with lots of chilli padi. Roasted satay is also heaty (due to the way it is prepared), but they eat it with peanut sauce. A typical nasi goreng Indonesia that we order will have fried rice (heaty), deep-fried keropok (heaty), satay with peanut sauce (very heaty) and sambal (gosh). I can’t think of a more Yang meal… Meals are better to be on the Yang side, but this is too much. It is better to eat this with some sort of cooling drinks, i’m sure. Or some tomato/cucumber by its side would be slightly better.

W, I hope you can give this some thought if you happen to be the one preparing meal for my family, ya… 😉  65% Yang & 35% Yin would be good.