Nutrition: The Thermal Property of Foods Explained by Genevieve Blanchet

Geneviève Blanchet, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and recent arrival in Pemberton, is a regular contributor to our site. She blends Asian tradition and modern western nutritional science with the wisdom of healing herbs. She is passionate about eating fresh, seasonal and nutrient-rich food and would like to share what she’s learned with you.

Post by Geneviève Blanchet

I find one of the most useful methods in Chinese food cure is the thermal property of foods.

Foods are classified accordingly to their ability to influence body temperature. The five thermal natures of foods in Chinese medicine are hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold. This does not mean whether you eat it hot or cold but is instead a measure of the effect on our metabolism after initial digestion, its energetic temperature.

In the West, food is described as containing certain amounts of protein, fat, minerals, vitamins and so on.

In the East, food is described as possessing certain qualities such as warming or cooling nature, possessing certain flavours or acting on our body in a certain way.

Knowledge of the temperatures of foods is intrinsic to all traditional cooking. A warming curry is balanced by a cooling cucumber and yogurt; hot lamb is balanced by cooling mint sauce, soups warm us in winter, salads cool us in summer. Warmer foods speed us up, cooler foods slow us down.

When you start understanding the temperature of foods, you can already establish a few guidelines about the right kind of foods for your condition.

Those with cold constitutions or conditions need to eat more warming diets and vice-versa.

Many theories describe the warming and cooling value of foods.

  • Plants that take longer to grow (beets, cabbage, carrots, most root vegetables, ginseng) are more warming than those that grow quickly (lettuce, sprout, cucumber, radish).
  • Raw food is more cooling than cooked food.
  • Food eaten cold is more cooling.
  • Foods with blue, green or purple colours are more cooling than the reds, orange or yellow. (A green apple is more cooling than a red one).
  • Region- tropical and sub-tropical foods tend to be more cooling than temperate-zone foods. Therefore strawberries are warmer than mangos.
  • Chemically fertilized plant foods, witch are stimulated to grow quickly, are often more cooling.
  • Cooking for longer time on low heat is more warming than a short time on high heat.
  • Chewing food more thoroughly creates warmth. Even food with a cool temperature will warm if chewed thoroughly.

Warmth aids digestion while cold hinders it. The more you can retain internal heat, the better your digestion will be, and the greater benefits you will reap from your meals. Favour hot or warm drinks and add mild spices to your foods, also use good quality fats at each meal to help maintain heat in the system. The amount of oil depends on the weather and your personal temperature. When the weather is warm use oil more sparingly.

Sources: Helping Ourselves, Daverick Leggett

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Sweet Aduki, Apple and Apricot Compote

This delicious hearty fruit compote will deeply nourish and keep you warm on the coolest days of winter.

8 dried apricots
½ cup aduki beans, cooked
¼ cup water
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
Pinch of unrefined sea salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place the cooked aduki beans, apples, apricots, beans and honey, in a heavy pot. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer about 1 hour or until beans are falling apart.

If necessary during this time, add a small amount of water. After 1 hour, season with a little salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and add more honey if needed. Remove the lid and continue to cook beans until most of the remaining liquid has cooked away. Use a hand blender to pulse until smooth.

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