What are Chinese medicine hot and cold foods?

by Jennifer Sun January 21, 2022 3 min read

I often get asked, what kinds of Chinese medicine foods should I be eating? Well, that’s a pretty loaded question! 

The short answer is, it depends — this changes based on season, your body constitution (how much hot or cold energy do you have), and your general state of well-being at that very moment. 

As Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, we often love to ask questions to find patterns, someone suffering from poor sleep and chronic indigestion and suffers from heavy periods is a type of pattern. Another person who may have cold hands and feet, foggy brain, and IBS is another pattern. We as practitioners, then categorize these patterns in hot, warm, cold, and cool — think energetic properties instead of actual temperature (to touch). 

Before I break down Chinese Medicine hot and cold foods, it’s important to remember we are always a combination of these energies and they transform into each other, so one can never be completely hot or completely cold. If your body tends to run hot, it is simply the dominating energy — which represents a combination of how you were born, and other diet and lifestyle factors that you’ve picked up over the years.

What are possible signs of a heat conditions? 

  • Sleep: insomnia, restless or fitful sleep, dream disturbed sleep, sweating 
  • Stool: constipation
  • Period: heavy bleeding on the first 2 days
  • Face / Body: blisters, acne, redness around the nose, cold sores, inflammation
  • Thirst: always thirsty with dry lips and mouth  

And so on.

What are possible signs of a cold pattern?

  • Sleep: continued sleep but feels foggy brained or sluggish
  • Stool: wet unformed stool that sticks to the toilet
  • Period: heavy cramping, clots
  • Face / Body: pale, lackluster face, clammy palms
  • Thirst: always craving warm drinks or soup

Of course there are many more possible body patterns we would want to consider but this is just to give some general examples. And as always, please consult a Chinese medicine practitioner to understand your hot / cold patterns, self-diagnosis can be dangerous and not conclusive!

If you identify with more of the hot condition types

Avoid fried foods, greasy oily foods, bbq, garlic, scallions, (fried) onions, pepper, ginger, kimchi, anything spicy. 

Balance with cold energy foods: 

  • Beans: soy bean, lima beans, mung beans 
  • Dairy: yogurt or kefir
  • Grains: barley, wheat germ, buckwheat, kamut, millet, pearled barley, oats
  • Meats: chicken
  • Veggies: bok choy, mung bean sprouts, plantains, seaweed, tomato, celery, asparagus, daikon, dandelion leaf, spinach, radishes
  • Fruits: Banana, grape fruit, lemon, lime, melon, persimmon, rhubarb, watermelon, avocado, kiwi, pear

For cold condition types

Avoid cold iced foods, raw foods (salads, juices) , soy products, dairy product, and try to avoid the foods recommended for Hot conditions 

Balance with Hot energy foods: 

  • Seeds: chestnut, peanut, pine nuts, walnut
  • Meats: lamb
  • Veggies: leek, green onions, onions, fennel bulb, parsnips, scallions, 
  • Fruits: Banana, grape fruit, lemon, lime, melon, persimmon, rhubarb, watermelon, avocado, kiwi, pear
  • Culinary herbs:  cloves, cumin, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, mustard
  • Fruits: kumquat, lychee, tangerines, guava

There is also a category of neutral foods — yes foods that you can eat which have no effect at all! A few of these foods include adzuki bean, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, rice, artichokes, carrots, figs, grapes, plums, pineapples, almonds, cashews, hemp seeds, to name a few. 

My final bits of advice:

While the foods mentioned above can help balance your bodies hot and cold energies, it’s important to incorporate these ingredients slowly and and take time to let your body respond. Also, once your hot conditions have cooled down, you may want to think about eating less cool foods (as to not over cool the body). The same applies for cold body types seeking balance with hot. 

It's always important to understand the root cause of your imbalances and seeking proper care and guidance is the first step. If you are interested in a session with me to learn more about your constitution and how to create a Chinese medicine diet that's best for you, get in touch!

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