Food Potency: Hot & Cold

posted in: Ayurveda Wisdom | 2

In addition to the Six Tastes, with respect to food, Ayurveda focuses particularly on the qualities of Hot and Cold – which is referred to as potency, or virya.  This has nothing to do with the temperature of food (i.e. hot soup v. ice cream). Rather, every ingredient in a meal has either a heating or a cooling effect, which determines how an ingredient will impact each of the mind/body types (i.e. Vata, Pitta, Kapha). For example, heating foods include peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, mustard, cumin seeds, ginger, etc. These foods are beneficial for digestion, but if consumed in high dosages can lead to various overheating ailments like ulcers, rashes, and gastritis – regardless of their temperature when eating them.  Cooling foods include cucumbers, melons, and fennel. These foods are helpful in offsetting the effects of heating foods and for cooling down Pitta – again, regardless of their temperature. Generally, heating tastes are aggravating to Pitta and calming to Vata and Kapha. Cooling tastes are aggravating to Vata and Kapha, and calming to Pitta. It is always important to consider the virya of each ingredient when planning and creating a meal so as to be balancing to the particular body-mind type of those that are eating.

2 Responses

  1. nidhi

    do hot foods more alkaline in nature and cold foods acidic

  2. Erin Hannum

    Great question! But it’s not so easy. Generally, alkaline forming foods include: most fruits, green vegetables, peas, beans, lentils, spices, herbs and seasonings, and seeds and nuts. Generally, acid forming foods include: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, grains, and legumes. While most fruits and veggies are alkaline, they vary largely in terms of their potency (i.e. hot and cold). For example, ginger, garlic, and peppers have an alkaline effect but they are considered heating foods. And kale, cucumbers, and watermelon also have an alkaline effect but they are all cooling foods in terms of potency.

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