What are Heaty Foods?

The concepts of heaty and cooling when it comes to food and how to identify such foods. Here’s the breakdown of heaty foods!




Durians. Image by momovieman via Creative Commons.
Durians. Image by momovieman via Creative Commons.

While the westerners may be completely unfamiliar with the idea of heaty foods, the concept of certain food affecting body temperatures negatively is a reality for many Asians. I remember my parents telling me to watch how much I binged on durians (yes, I used to binge on these luscious, golden fleshed, soft fruits. I don’t understand how some describe the scent of the durian to be foul. I don’t get it, do you?) or I’ll end up with a sore throat. And true enough, the next day; my throat would swell and eating anything would be a battle. I remember being highly frustrated because while my parents could tell me what was heaty and what wasn’t (well, almost), they couldn’t really tell me what was it about the food that made it heaty. And the Internet was not as accessible as it is today – so naturally my curiosity went unanswered.

What does Heaty or Cooling mean?

The concept of heaty foods is truly an asian one, developed long ago by ancients who recognised how our bodies reacted to the enzymes in certain food types. In contrast to the popular notion that the foods were heaty, this in fact isn’t the case at all. Rather, it is the effect the food in question might have on our body that has it labelled ‘heaty’ or even ‘cooling’. For example, there are people who can eat durians day and night and not be cursed with a sore throat or fever – this came as a shocker to me too, but its true. Oh how I envy these individuals. The same can be applied to cooling foods – which have been identified as cooling as they cause the consumer to catch a cold (at times).

Salmon. Image by Jeremy Keith via Creative Commons.
Salmon. Image by Jeremy Keith via Creative Commons.

Essentially, a person who is easily susceptible to fevers and sore throats should stay away from food that are heaty, while those more vulnerable to catching a cold should stay away from cooling foods. Heaty (or warming) foods are know to raise the temperature and blood circulation of and around the organs in the body, thus giving way to your body over-heating. Therefore, people who are prone to sores around the mouth, sore throats and fevers should avoid these foods. In contrast, cooling foods are known to reduce the body’s temperature and calm blood fluidity, thus bringing you down with the flu (upon excessive consumption, that is). This balance might be slightly different for women during that time of the month, where the body goes through a hormonal change and women are encouraged to stay away from cooling foods altogether. Identified as a person who can easily procure a sore throat, I can happily survive on cooling foods, such as cucumbers and citrus fruits, and get away without catching a cold. If I were to eat even one piece of durian however, I’m doomed the next day.

Ultimately, it’s about understanding the delicate balance of energy in the human body (the ying vs yang concept). According to TCM, a person having rheumatism will benefit from a hot drink or some heaty food during. Here’s a comprehensive list (link) of which foods are heaty and which aren’t. Hopefully this list will help you the next time you’re down with a cold.

What are your experiences with heaty or cooling foods? Tell me about it!

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  1. After eating durian, drink salt water. It has colling effect and thus, you can continue to eat more durians 😊

    1. Krishy Author says:

      Hi st,

      I had no idea salt water helps! I had even gone to the extent of drinking water out of the inner husks of the durians, it never helped! But I’ll keep this in mind, thanks!


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