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Ayurveda diet cooling heating foods


Which foods are heating and which are cooling according to Ayurveda ?

Which foods are heating and which are cooling according to Ayurveda ?

Short answer


Here below some example of main stream foods categorised according to their vipaka – potency (cooling or heating).
For those curious to understand the why behind this list and how to recognise potency of ingredients anywhere on your own, scroll down :


Cayenne pepper




Crisps and fries






Red wine

Red meat


Brown lentils

Brown rice

Oily fish


Cured meats

Nuts (except coconut and almond peeled)


Sweet potato


Basmati rice


Leafy green

Green veggies

Mung beans

Chick peas











Almond peeled




First, I find it interesting to extend the term food beyond substances we put in our mouth. Actually human beings are gifted with 5 senses, and all that is taken through the senses can be considered food. Indeed food for our ears is sound or food for our eyes can be images!
Often patients or students of Ayurveda, put all our the emphasis on diet and forget about all the other foods that are taken in through other senses. These other foods have an equal if not greater impact on balance of the body and mind. We must consider this when applying principles of Ayurveda and following a specific regimen.
So in regards to food some have heating qualities and some have cooling qualities. A non exhaustive list of food has been given above, but it is hard to memorise. By understand the core principle behind this food list, each one of us can, in any given situation, refer to the principle and understand which foods are causing an increase in the hot or cold quality in our body.
It must be noted that within cold and hot there exist multiple variations of hoter, hotest, cooler, coolest and rather neutral.
Here are a few principles that help us understand why a food tends to create heat or cold in the body.



There exist 20 pairs of opposite qualities – called gunas – that all substances can be categorised under. According to Bagavat, Astanga Hrdayam the respective opposites of these gunas are as follows:

Guru (heaviness) x Laghu (lightness)

Manda (dullness) x Tlksna (sharpness)

Hima/Sita (cold)  x Usna (hot)

Snigdha (unctuousness) x Ruksa (dryness)

Slaksna (smooth) x Khara (rough)

Sandra (solid) x Drava (liquid)

Mrdu (soft) x Kathina (hard)

Sthira (immobile) x Sara (mobile)

Suksma (minute) x Sthula (bulk)

Visada (clarity/non slim) x Picchila (slimness)

Seeing foods – in the wider sense – through the lease of the guna help us identify how various forces work for or against each other. And below is the rule that explains it all!



This second universal Ayurvedic principle helps us make intelligent use of the above knowledge of the guna. It is essential to understand it and experience it in our daily life, in order to maintain balance of the body. This key principle of balance is that :

Similar qualities increase each other and opposite qualities balance each other.

In the Astanga Hrdayam it is said that “Due to the ingestion of the food having similar qualities vrddhi (increase) will be taken place in the body and ksaya (decrease) will be seen while taking the opposite qualities of food substances.”

Now it becomes clear why seeing foods through the lense of the gunas becomes an essential tool to balance of the body. In all honesty this is nothing new, we all know this from deep within, but most of us have forgotten, as we are disconnected from our body and confused by the overload of information.

Let’s take a minute to remember that foods include everything we take through our senses, including more subtle foods which exist in our environment.

For instance the weather is cold, naturally one should wear a warm coat. A rice dish is dry, one may add some butter or sauce. I spend much time travelling to work or for work, I will need some time being stable to maintain the balance. My constitution is hot in nature, then winter and cool environments work best for me etc…

Now back to the initial question: Which foods are heating and which are cooling according to Ayurveda? Ayurveda categorises foods – in this situation the food that we put in our mouth – in 6 tastes from which we can easily answer our initial question.



According to Ayurveda, there exist 6 tastes – Rasa – that can be perceived by the tongue. The 6 tastes are :

1. Madhura rasa (sweet)
2. Amla rasa (sour)
3. Lavanarasa (salt)
4. Tikta rasa (bitter)
5. Usana/Katu rasa (pungent)
6. Kasaya rasa (astringent).

Each taste and therefore each food, through the process of digestion creates either heat or cold in the body in variable quantity.

The sweet, bitter and astringent taste tend to cool down the body. Pungent, sour and salty tend to heat the body. So from there you can create your own list more easily.

There are a few exceptions, as for all respectable rules! The main one to remember is that honey and carrots which sweet yet heating to the body. Also worth noting that stimulants and alcohol, acidic, oily and fermented foods are also heating to the body. And that naturally very hot foods are heating and very cold foods are cooling (and not recommended according to ayurveda as they create imbalance of the digestive fire.

It may sound a little overwhelming, but these are essential life principle that in the long run will make life easier. The other way is to reconnect to the body through meditation or other practice, to the extent that one becomes so in tune to his immediate needs, that there are no principle needed 🙂


Good luck!



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