USING FOOD TO COOL DOWN OR WARM UP
While spring is in the air we are gradually moving towards summer. A good time to look at foods that can cool you down during hot days. And for the ones under you that live in the southern hemisphere: we will also look at foods that can warm you up during very cold days in winter. Actually, there are even neutral foods: foods without cooling or heating effects.
Chinese medical practitioners have used “cooling” and “heating” characteristics of food since ancient times in their practices. Researchers (Huang and Wu, 2002) found a difference between the effect of heating foods (litchi and (dried) longan) and cooling foods (chrysanthemum flower, bitter gourd, and lotus seed plumule) on the production of Prostaglandin E(2) in macrophages: the type of white blood cells that are responsible for clean-up in the immune system, their name literally means “glutton”. Prostaglandin E(2) is usually increased in inflammation and infections, and heating foods increase its production while cooling foods decrease its production. So cooling foods might actually be an extra help in bringing down your inflammation or infection – although of course not replacing medical treatment for these!
So – back to “cool” food: examples are most citrus fruits, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and green leafy vegetables. The best thing to drink to stay cool is green mint tea: tea and green tea are considered cooling by themselves, as is mint – so what could be better than a combination? I always have green tea in my cupboard and mint is growing on my balcony. Cooling protein sources include kelp and seaweed. Cooling fruit salads can contain a variety of “cool” fruit: apples, bananas, citrus fruits (grapefruit, lemon, orange, pomelo), kiwi, pear, pineapple, star fruit, watermelon, persimmon and strawberry. Or make a green salad with a pick of cooling sprouts and roots/shoots (alfalfa, bamboo, daikon, lotus), vegetables and herbs (asparagus, bitter gourd, celery, spinach). Did you know that mushrooms and eggplants are also considered cooling foods?
In winter we can enjoy ourselves with a whole range of stews and drinks with “heating” food components. Some of these foods like to keep themselves warm when they grow: root vegetables like ginger, onions (leeks, regular onions, spring onions) and beets. The debate on turnips and sweet potatoes is still ongoing: some consider them neutral and some consider them as heating foods. Anyway, at least they do not cool you down. Pumpkin is also a great warm up food; with so many possibilities in the kitchen: soups, sweet pies, savory pies, stews etcetera.
Note that most of the foods that are considered “cooling” actually grown locally during spring or summer (think of asparagus or strawberries), while foods considered as “heating) grow in your local area during winter. A good reason to eat local season fruits and vegetables! While keeping yourself “cool” or “warm” depending on the season with a nice healthy diet, you might want to make sure you also keep yourself “happy”.
Wishing you a very “cool and happy” summer (or a really “hot and happy” winter)!