TCM Thermal Properties of Foods

Chinese Medicine says that we should first try to resolve a health problem with diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes before looking towards therapies like acupuncture, herbs, medications, or surgery. For this reason, diet is considered a first line of defense in health matters.

One of the ways that we can promote wellness is by eating according to our constitution. Are you the type  of person that feels cold even in warmer weather, do you have cold hands and feet? Or perhaps you sweat easily and your face and head get red and hot with exertion or emotion. Everyone has a natural constitution that is as much a part of us as our personality.

All foods have a thermal property based on their effect on the body and in this way we can used foods therapeutically. Foods either have a warming effect, a cooling effect, or a neutral effect on the body’s internal balance. By eating according to our own internal environment, we can use these properties to correct imbalances and restore our body’s healthy balance. People who tend towards a cool constitution should eat more warming foods to encourage warmth and circulation. People with a warm or hot constitution should eat more cooling foods to temper the body’s internal heat.

 Tips on eating/preparing foods according to their thermal nature:

  •  Alter the thermal properties of foods by cooking them. Foods are coldest in their raw form, and can be made more warming by cooking them.
  • Balance out the thermal nature of one food by combining it with other foods. For example, foods with cooling properties can be balanced by combining them with warming foods and by using warming spices with them.
  •  Herbs and spices are the best way to personalize our diet! They can be added at the table to tailor a dish to our constitution and symptoms. Moderation is key! Food should be mainly quite neutral or mild in flavour with some spices and flavourings to add interest. Avoid overly flavouring foods with condiments, salt, and spices.

Check out our handy guides below on the thermal properties of foods by food group!

Properties of Food - VegetablesProperties of Food - FruitsProperties of Food - Meat and SeafoodProperties of Food - Herbs and SpicesProperties of Food - GrainsProperties of Food - Oils, Nuts, Seeds, CondimentsProperties of Food - Dairy     

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