When a Westerner hears the term ‘heaty’ or ‘heatiness’, he/she would probably ask what it is. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this is a common concept related to the balancing of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’. Most people, especially the Chinese in Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singaporeans are familiar with this notion of heaty (yang) (as opposed to cooling or yin) as it is a Chinese form of expressing certain set of symptoms or sensations often associated with emotional or physical reactions such as:
o Feelings of irritability;
o Short temper;
o Flushed face or cheeks;
o Dark yellow urine;
o Sore throat;
o Nose bleed;
o Outbreak of pimples and acne;
o Mouth ulcers;
Excessive “cold” energy in the body, on the contrary, will make us feel weak, lethargic, tired and restless.
The constitution of each person is influenced by congenital factors as well as the acquired lifestlye (e.g diet, stress level, amount of exercise and sleep, living environment), and this varies from person to person. In other words, different foods act upon the human body in different ways and affect our state of health. The body’s metabolism, functioning of organs and organ structure all combine to determine our susceptibility to these heaty and cooling effects of foods.
Examples of cooling and heaty foods:
Cool (yin) Foods:
Bamboo shoot, banana, bitter gourd, clam, crab, grapefruit, lettuce, persimmon, salt, seaweed, star fruit, sugar cane, water chestnut, watermelon, lotus root, cucumber, barley, bean curd, chicken egg white, marjoram, oyster, pear, peppermint, radish, strawberry, tangerine, and yogurt, broccoli, cauliflower, zuccini, corn, tomatoes, pineapple, turmeric.
Neutral (balanced yin and yang) Foods:
Corn, abalone, apricot, beef, beetroot, black fungus, carp, carrot, celery, chicken egg yolk, cuttlefish, duck, fig, honey, kidney bean, lotus fruit and seed, milk, olive, oyster, papaya, pork, potato, pumpkin, radish leaf, red bean, plum, sunflower seed, sweet rice, sweet potato, white fungus, yellow soybean, brussels sprouts, snow peas, sweet potato, taro, dates, figs, raspberries, raisins, sage, rosemary, thyme, brown rice, apple.
Heaty (yang) Foods:
Pepper, cinnamon bark, ginger, soybean oil, red and green pepper, chicken, apricot seed, brown sugar, cherry, chestnut, chive, cinnamon twig, clove, coconut, coffee, coriander (Chinese parsley), date, dillseed, eel, garlic, grapefruit peel, green onion, guava, ham, leaf mustard, leek, longan, mutton, nutmeg, peach, raspberry, rosemary, shrimp, spearmint, sweet basil, tobacco, vinegar, walnut, jackfruit, durian, leek, shallots, spring onion, , apricots, blackberries, black currant, mangoes, peaches, cherry, mandarin orange, grape.
How a food is prepared also matters. E.g Beef is considered as neutral, but if you have it deep fried or grilled, it would be considered as heaty. In addition, there are some interesting broad guidelines to determine whether a certain food is heaty or cooling:
o grow under the hot sun;
o are sweet;
o have lots of fats;
o rich in sodium;
o are hard, dry or spicy.
o grow in little sunshine;
o are salty;
o are lean;
o rich in potassium;
o soft and wet;
The heatiness and cooling effect of foods refer to their capacity to generate sensations – either hot or cold in our body. They do not refer to the state of the food but its effect on our bodies. For example, tea is a cooling food. This means that it generates cold energy in our body. To seek a balance in diet, we can classify food as predominantly yin or yang. Hence, if you eat predominantly yin foods, your body will be capable of producing only cold energy, in contrast, eating predominantly yang foods produces hotter energy. If a person suffers from cold rheumatism, eating foods with a warm or hot energy would be helpful. If a person suffers from acne eruptions due to consumption of fried foods, it is beneficial to eat cooling foods to counter heatiness and relieve symptoms.
The concept of heatiness is not meaningful or relevant in the western medicine paradigm. However, it is believed that there is some parallel to Acid (heaty) and alkaline (cooling) balance, or protons and positive charges (heaty) and cooling (electrons and negative charges). Medicine evolves. Conventional medical doctors in the west has long started to integrate and learn about alternative treatments or medicines and incorporate them into their practice. Today they believe that these new medical approaches are beneficial and effective in many ways.