What’s Hot and What’s Not

In Iran we fully believe in the power of hot and cold foods, much like the chinese do. In fact legend has it that  our  ancient ancestors shared this food knowledge with the chinese , but we won’t get into that here! Iranians believe that food is fuel and  either weakens or strengthens the body and these beliefs go way back to ancient times and originate from the Zoroastrian religion.


The description ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ doesn’t relate to the temperature of the food but rather to the effect the food has on your body. Everything we eat is broken down by enzymes in our stomachs and that has an effect on our cells and ultimately on how we function. Enzymes react to  ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ food. For example, ‘cold’ food like cucumber or Salad Olivieh slows down the digestive process, which in turn slows us down, requiring us to expend additional energy to continue digestion and will lead to feeling sluggish or tired. On the other hand, ‘hot’ food speeds up the digestive process, increases our metabolic rate and we are more alert and ready to take up our busy lives.

Our bodies need a balance of both ‘hot and ‘cold’ food to function at their best. So for  example when I make salad Olivieh, I decorate it with a ‘hot’ food, like walnuts or add carrots . Another example is Khoresht e Feseenjun where the two main ingredients are pomegranate ( cold) and walnuts (hot). Salad is made more balanced by adding herbs, which are hot. Rice is ‘cold’ which is why we eat our khoreshts or stews spiced with saffron and turmeric, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon, salt and pepper.  And you thought it was just to make it taste delicious! Rose-water is ‘hot’ and sugar is cold, which is why our sweet dishes like Nan e Berenji use rose-water. Yoghurt is cold which is why we add mint!  Lamb and chicken kebab with rice …. Get the idea! It’s about creating a balance, or making what we eat neutral.

There are times when we need to eat ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ food like when we have colds and illness.  I’ll save that for another post.


  • All herbs except coriander
  • All spices except sumac
  • Chicken and lamb
  • Dairy is generally cold, except goats cheese which is neutral, Kashk which is hot and ghee.
  • Eggs
  • Most nuts
  • Vinegar
  • Wheat flour
  • chick peas, yellow split peas.
  • Honey


  • Most vegetables except: carrots, radish, okra, onions, garlic, red and green peppers,
  • Most fruit except apples, dates, quince.
  • Fish
  • Coffee
  • sugar
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • kidney beans, lentils


  • Pears
  • Tea
  • Goats cheese

Love life, eat well and cook Persian!


8 thoughts on “What’s Hot and What’s Not

  1. That’s an interesting post. So if I want to lose weight, should I eat more nuts and bread to speed up my digestion? Or is it not how it works?
    I love your recipes also – will try making rice with crispy potatoes sometime soon 🙂

    1. Hi Thanks for visiting 🙂 In my experience if you stick with eating fresh veg, fruit, grains, nuts and avoid pre made foods ( I would include any bought bread in that because of the additives) , excessive oil and fats, you will loose weight. The ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ theory suggests the same because it will speed up your metabolism, including your digestive system! If you try it out let me know how you got on!!
      Yeeeey ….the crispy rice ‘taadig’ is the bit people dive for first!! J 🙂

  2. Thanks for the reply! I agree – eating fresh foods is a good start for weight loss. My problem is: I like eating too much of the healthy foods, and even in the home made bread there are enough calories :-).

  3. Finally a thorough English explanation! Thank you for that. I always tried to explain this concept to non-Iranians and would fail miserably. I think the hot-cold food concept is also believed in Asian countries. Just discovered your site and love it!

    1. Thanks so much, Im always thrilled to hear back from readers 🙂 …..YES, somehow hot v cold food is a strange concept for many europeans to take on and they confuse it with food temperature but I dont know why because it makes complete sense when you thnk about it!!!! I think it is widely believed followed in Asian countries particularly China. Have a great day 🙂

  4. Thank you for finally verbalizing this in English, and so well! I’ve often wondered about the properties of sugar being cold? Why is it that we add nabat to chai when we have too many “cold” foods to settle our stomach? I always thought it was because sugar is “hot” and raises your body temp in a sense…is that incorrect?

  5. Interesting post, but is there any scientific evidence that suggest the foods listed above are either hot or cold? That is to say do these foods really speed up or slow down digestion or has this knowledge just been passed down through the ages?

    There is no scientific evidence that I know of but thousands of years of experience. You choose ! Better still why not try for yourself. Enjoy.

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