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  • Writer's pictureMira

Healing with Asian Traditional Diet Therapy and Modern Nutrition

Updated: Feb 18

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the heat and cold properties of food are considered crucial for their medicinal value. The warming or cooling properties of food depend on various factors, including their origin and cultivation, cooking methods, and the specific part of the plant or animal used.

Cooling foods direct the body's energy and fluids inwards and downwards, resulting in a cooling effect on the exterior and upper parts of the body. Conversely, warming foods stimulate energy to move upwards and outwards. According to the Five Element theory, warming foods like dried ginger, oats, parsnips, butter, and anchovies provide support to the body during the winter season.

There are several theories regarding the warming and cooling properties of food, and some commonly accepted ones include:

  1. Plants that take longer to grow tend to have more warming properties compared to fast-growing plants.

  2. Plants that grow in the summer are generally more warming than those that grow in winter.

  3. Chemically fertilized plant foods, which are cultivated to grow quickly, often have cooling properties. This includes most commercially grown fruits and vegetables.

  4. Raw food has a more cooling effect compared to cooked food.

  5. Food consumed at colder temperatures has a greater cooling effect.

  6. Foods with blue or green colors usually have a cooling effect, while red, orange, or yellow foods tend to be more warming. For example, a green apple is considered more cooling than a red apple.

  7. Cooking methods that involve longer cooking times and higher temperatures have a greater warming effect on food.

  8. Thoroughly chewing food generates warmth. Even foods with a cool temperature can be warmed up through thorough chewing.

Types of Warming Foods

Warming foods that heat up our bodies often have a strong taste. Examples include onions, ginger, garlic, and peppers. Additionally, there are other foods such as Job's tears, mustard leaves, ginseng, red ginseng, chives, pumpkin, glutinous rice, chicken, spring onions, chestnuts, cinnamon, mugwort, and honey. These foods can be cooked and consumed alongside other foods or brewed into tea to help maintain body warmth.

Methods to Distinguish Warming Foods

When categorizing foods into warm and cold properties, there are numerous categories. If the properties of a food are unknown, they can be roughly distinguished by color. Foods with warm properties often have a red or black appearance. Conversely, foods with cold properties tend to be green and have a high moisture content. For instance, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and ginger have warm properties, while watermelon, cucumber, and melon have cold properties.

Top 10 Foods to Keep Your Body Warm


Apples are packed with vitamins and help to keep your body warm. The natural sugars, organic acids, and pectin in apples aid in removing accumulated fatigue in the body. Pectin also promotes bowel movement and is beneficial for preventing constipation. It is recommended to thoroughly wash apples and enjoy them with the skin on.


Ginseng is a fantastic way to warm up your body and boost energy levels. It helps eliminate waste in the blood vessels and has antioxidant effects, which are beneficial for recovering from fatigue and preventing diseases. The best way to consume ginseng is by brewing it as tea. Simply chop the ginseng into small pieces, soak it in water for about 15 minutes, then boil it and remove any residue. Boil for another 15 minutes, and you can savor a delicious cup of ginseng tea.


Honey is a wonderful choice for individuals with cold symptoms, weak digestion, or fatigue. It has a warm nature and promotes overall metabolism, providing a quick sense of warmth. The sugars in honey are in the form of monosaccharides, which are rapidly absorbed by the body. They serve as an immediate source of calories and have excellent fatigue recovery effects.

Spring Onions

Spring onions and onions are excellent foods for those who tend to feel cold. The white part and roots of spring onion have a warm nature, while the green part has a cool nature. Therefore, individuals with cold bodies should primarily consume the roots and white part. The roots and white part help enhance blood circulation and keep the body warm, making them ideal for those who easily feel cold. They also expand blood vessels and promote sweating, which is beneficial for preventing colds.


Chives are particularly beneficial for individuals with cold and stiff knees. They have a warm nature, which strengthens the digestive system and keeps the waist and knees warm. Chives are goof for individuals who often feel cold, experience indigestion, frequently have diarrhea, or suffer from frequent knee stiffness.


Garlic stimulates the nervous system and boosts blood circulation, making it a warming food for the entire body. For effective consumption, it is most beneficial to store garlic in honey for about 6 months and eat 1-2 slices of garlic honey pickles per day when experiencing cold symptoms.


Ginger has a hot and spicy nature, generating heat in the body and promoting blood circulation to keep the body warm. It also warms the digestive organs, stimulates gastric acid secretion, increases appetite, and has an antibacterial effect on the gastric wall. Therefore, ginger is an excellent food for individuals with weak digestion and cold bodies. It is recommended to peel off the ginger skin, as the skin has a diuretic effect and cool nature.


Chestnuts support the functions of the stomach and spleen, providing comfort to the stomach and promoting smooth blood circulation. They are highly nutritious and easy to digest, making them an ideal snack. Chestnuts can be boiled or baked in the oven, but they also add a delicious flavour when added to rice.

Lotus Roots

The mucin in lotus roots aids in digestion and protects the gastric wall. Additionally, the tannins found in lotus roots have astringent and hemostatic effects, which help inhibit hemorrhoids, ulcers, and nosebleeds. Lotus roots are a unique root vegetable that contains a large amount of vitamin C. The body slowly absorbs this vitamin and is also beneficial for dieting.


Pumpkin warms the stomach and provides a comforting feeling. It is also rich in dietary fiber, calcium, and various nutrients and minerals. Pumpkin is abundant in carotene, which is beneficial for preventing colds.

Cooling Food

Every foo has its unique subtle characteristics. Just like humans, food can be broadly categorized as either cold-natured or warm-natured. In our previous discussion, we learned about foods that have a warming effect on the body. While many people believe that being warm equates to being healthy, it's important to be mindful of excessively high body temperature. We should also pay attention to any signs of inflammation in the body or imbalances in the hormone system, including the thyroid gland. When the body has an excess of heat but needs to maintain an appropriate body temperature, it becomes necessary to regulate it with foods that have a cold nature. Foods with a cold nature primarily have antipyretic effects, alleviate inflammation symptoms, and aid in relieving indigestion. Consuming foods that are suitable for your own constitution helps maintain a balanced nutrition and greatly contributes to your overall health.

So, if you suddenly feel cold or if your body is filled with heat, pay close attention to the foods that will be introduced from now on.

Top 10 Foods to Keep Your Body Cool


Eggplants are a wonderful vegetable with a cooling nature. They have the ability to reduce body heat in people who tend to feel hot and can also improve blood circulation. The cooling properties of eggplants are quite effective in treating and reducing inflammation. Moreover, they are packed with essential vitamins that aid in stress relief, recovery from fatigue, and boosting stamina. What's more, eggplants are a great source of dietary fiber, which promotes a healthy digestive system and helps to relieve constipation. Enjoy the benefits of this amazing vegetable.


Cucumbers have a high water content, making them a good source for replenishing body fluids, especially during activities like hiking. The cool properties of cucumbers also help relieve thirst and cool down the body's heat. They can be placed on the eyes to reduce puffiness and applied to burns for effective treatment. Cucumbers are also beneficial for preventing heatstroke.


Pineapples are known to help reduce body heat, especially in tropical regions. They are a cool fruit that helps lower body temperature. However, pregnant women, who need to keep their bodies warm, should be cautious as a cold body temperature weakens digestion. Consuming an appropriate amount of pineapple is beneficial for individuals with excess heat. Adding unrefined or brown sugar to pineapple can neutralize its cool nature and make it suitable for consumption.

Red Bean

Red beans are a cooling food often enjoyed as a summer dessert. They are known for their ability to reduce fever and eliminate heat toxins through urine, especially in individuals with excess heat. Red beans also have a cooling effect on the stomach and act as a diuretic, helping with waste elimination and promoting weight loss. However, people with a cold body should avoid consuming red beans as they may cause diarrhea.


Buckwheat is a food that thrives in cool and humid climates. It has a cool-natured property and can help lower body heat and relieve inflammation. Additionally, buckwheat aids digestion and relieves constipation. It is easier to digest compared to wheat flour because it contains less gluten. However, individuals with a cold body and weak digestive system should avoid consuming buckwheat, while it can be beneficial for those with excessive bile.


Consuming a large amount of wheat flour can cause digestive disorders, such as indigestion and diarrhea, due to its cooling effect on the stomach. It is recommended to remove the bran and consume the remaining wheat germ for a healthier wheat consumption. The fiber in wheat germ helps prevent constipation.


Seaweed is a nutrient-rich food that is often called the "vegetable of the sea." It has a cooling nature and is excellent for reducing heat and swelling. Seaweed is effective in relieving symptoms such as dizziness, chest congestion, and fever. Combining seaweed with cool-natured cucumbers enhances its cooling effect. For example, a refreshing dish to try is cucumber and seaweed cold soup.


Abalone is a seafood known for its cooling properties, which can help alleviate headaches caused by body heat. It also reduces swollen eyes, promoting eye health and recovery. However, individuals with a cold body should exercise caution. For those with excess heat, abalone is effective in relieving heatstroke, maintaining body temperature, and preventing vomiting and diarrhea.


Crabs are recognized in Asian diet therapy as a cooling food that helps reduce body heat. They possess fever-reducing properties and alleviate inflammation symptoms. Additionally, crabs promote digestive health and alleviate indigestion. When individuals with a cold body consume crabs, they can be accompanied by warm ingredients like garlic, ginger, and green onions in the seasoning sauce.


Unlike beef and chicken, pork is considered to have a cooling nature. It is a good source of energy, especially for children and individuals with weak constitutions. However, if pork is not properly cooked, its cooling nature can overwhelm the digestive system and lead to diarrhea. To counteract this, it is recommended to consume pork with warm-natured foods. For example, pairing pork belly with warm-natured side dishes like chives, ginger, and garlic, or enjoying boiled pork with warm-natured fermented shrimp paste can help neutralize its cooling effects and aid digestion.


Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods : Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 3rd ed., rev.updated, and expanded. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books, 2002. Print.

Hicks, Angela, John Hicks, and Peter. Mole. Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2011. Print.

An DG / 1998 / The Dietary Life and Korean Medicine / J East Asian Soc Dietary Life 8

Cho JS / 2009 / Treat disease by foods! / Sungbosa

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