I am unsure if this categorization of food exist only in Chinese culture or if it exists in other (Asian) cultures. In China, a lot of the food is separated into either "cold" or "hot".

Some examples of "cold" food types are:

  • most fruits (apples, pears, etc)
  • tea
  • some herbal remedies(gingseng, ram horn water, etc)

Some examples of "hot" food types are:

  • some fruits (mangoes, pineapple, etc)
  • deep fried foods
  • pan-seared/ pan fried foods
  • coffee

Generally since I was young, I've been brought up to eat a balance of the "hot" and "cold" food. I was curious if this "hot" and "cold" categorization can be quantified into anything concrete? Can this categorization be backed by any sort of food science that finds a similarity between all the "hot" foods and all the "cold" foods.

  • Not yin and yang?
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 14:53
  • @SAJ14SAJ hmmm it might be related but I am translating the "hot" and "cold" literally.
    – Jay
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 15:03
  • Chinese Food Therapy seems like what you're thinking of. In India, Ayurvedic practitioners separate food into 3 broad categories -- Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic -- and that sounds like something similar too. Commented May 22, 2013 at 15:15
  • 1
    Oh nice! Thanks for putting a label on what I was referring to! I just want to note that you didn't answer the primary question.
    – Jay
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


Per AsianResearch.org's article The Ancient Theory Behind Chinese Food:

Generally speaking, foods that have a higher water content are considered cool, or yin, in nature. These are often foods that are boiled or steamed. Foods that have a higher energy content, particularly from fat, are considered warm, or yang, in nature. These are often foods that are fried or roasted.


From [Chinese traditional element theory] comes the idea of the five flavours − bitter, sweet, spicy, salty and sour.

These flavours are subdivided into yin and yang. Sweet and spicy foods are considered to be yin, while bitter, sour and salty foods are considered to be yang. The five elements also correspond with the colours red, yellow, white, blue and green, which are all considered when choosing ingredients.

  • Ah that kinda makes sense. It explains why fried food is "hot" and why most fruits are "cool". It also explains why tea is "cool" (it hydrates you) while coffee is "hot" (it dehydrates you). I wonder why some of the fruits are "hot" though.
    – Jay
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 13:32
  • Add to this meats are classified as "cold" and "hot" interestingly as well - Fish is cold, then chicken, then beef, then lamb (all in increasing "heat")... There are links to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and the importance of "warm" or "hot" food to increasing ones health and balancing internal humors.
    – stslavik
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 21:15
  • I'm guessing pineapple is "hot" because it is sour and the same may apply to the other fruits.
    – Erik
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 21:17

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