From ancient times humans distinguished foods for the results their intake had on them.
Some foods caused cold feelings, others heated the body, some caused dryness, other moistened and still others were neutral.
This knowledge gave origin to teachings about the use of different foods in certain circumstances of disequilibriums in human bodies.
In the Rambam’s Mishna Torah, Maimonides recommends the following for Jewish Health:
“In summer, one should eat cold foods without excessive amounts of spices, and one should also eat vinegar. In the winter, one should eat hot foods with lots of spices, and small quantities of mustard and asa-foetida as well. One should also follow this rule in hot or cold places, and in any place where it is suitable to do so.”
More details can be found: http://www.torah.org/learning/rambam/
The Chinese have a different way of looking at illness. It is all about equilibrium.
A cold for example is an disequilibrium in your body. To overcome the cold you have to re-establish the equilibrium and for this it depends what your constitution is and in what direction the disequilibrium tends. Acupuncture, acupressure and herbs are then used to restore the harmony in your body systems.
In “Acupuncture and chinese medicine com” We can find some more explanation:
The Five Energies of Foods
The energies of foods refer to their capacity to generate sensations-either hot or cold in the human body.
As an example, eating foods with a hot energy will make us experience hot sensations in the body and foods with a cold energy, cold sensations.
In daily life, each of us knows that eating ice makes us feel cold and drinking hot water makes us feel warm. This is because ice has a cold energy and hot water, a hot energy. But ice or hot water produce only temporary effects. To produce long-lasting effects, herbs are used as substitutes for foods that provide only temporary relief In other words, to produce cold or hot sensations, herbs are more effective than foods and foods are more effective than ice or hot water.
What are the five energies of foods?
The five energies of foods are:
However, the adjectives “cold”, “hot”, “warm”, “cool” and “neutral” do not refer to the present state of foods.
For example, tea has a cold energy, so even though you may drink hot tea, you are actually drinking a cold beverage. Shortly after the tea enters your body, its heat (a temporary phenomenon) will be lost and as it begins to generate cold energy, your body begins to cool off.
Another example, red pepper, has a hot energy. Even though you may eat cold red pepper from the refrigerator, you still consume a hot food. Shortly after it enters your body, its temporary coldness is lost and your body begins to feel hot.
The energies of foods, therefore, refer to what the foods do in our bodies – whether they generate hot or cold, warm or cool, or neutral sensations.
Hot is opposed to cold; warm is opposed to cool; neutral is somewhere between warm and cool.
Cold and cool foods differ from each other, as do warm and hot foods.
Bamboo shoots have a cold energy, black pepper a hot energy; cucumber has a cool energy, chicken a warm and corn a neutral energy.
It is important for us to know the energies of foods, because different energies act upon the human body in different ways. This has important effects on good health.
As an example, when a person suffers from cold rheumatism and the pain is particularly severe on cold winter days, then it is good for him or her to eat foods with a warm or hot energy, which should considerably relieve the pain.
Or if you suffer from skin eruptions that worsen when exposed to heat, it is good to eat foods with a cold or cool energy to relieve your symptoms.
While the energies of foods play an important role in Chinese diet, the Chinese also classify the human body into cold and hot types.
One person may have a hot physical constitution, another a cold one. The person with a hot physical constitution should consume more foods with a cold or cool energy; the person with a cold physical constitution, more foods with a hot or warm energy-a plan the Chinese call “a balanced diet.” Such a diet is always related to each individual’s physical constitution and may differ from one person to another.