Persian food culture | Balance of hot and cold nature

When it comes to maintaining a balanced diet, Persian food culture won’t just be limited to balancing the nutrients in meals but also to what that is considered to be hot nature (garmi) and cold nature (Sardi) of ingredients.

Living an Iranian lifestyle, you naturally learn to avoid eating a certain combination of foods and ingredients. Fish with yoghurt or melon with honey are two of the most mentioned examples.

History of hot and cold nature in Persian food culture

The roots of this eating habit go back to Traditional Iranian medicine (TIM) which is the traditional medicine practised in Iran for over 2000 years.

The existence of hot and cold nature have been traced in many traditional medical theories such as Chinese, Arabic, Greek, Persian, Roman, etc. It is believed to be originated from ancient Greece by greek scientists like Hippocrates. Later on, the theory had found its way to the East and therefore to Persian culture by the book Canon of Medicine, written by Avicenna (ibn Sīnā, Persian scientist).

Avicenna believed in the importance of a good eating habit as he writes:

“Most illnesses arise solely from long-continued errors of diet and regimen.”

The balance of hot and cold in Iranian food culture

Traditional Iranian medicine determines hotness (Garmi) and coldness (Sardi) of foods by the impact that they have on the human body. Traditional medicine of Persia believes that there are different body types. These body types are categorized by their dominant body fluid into four types:

  • Phlegm (Balgham),
  • Blood (Dam),
  • Yellow bile (Ṣafrā’)
  • Black bile (Saudā’)

Each food has a different effect on the human body’s metabolism based on what type of body it is.

While making a Persian food, Iranians try to maintain a balance between the hotness and coldness of foods while considering the body types. Some might think “will a specific food affect all people the same way?”

The answer is no.

As mentioned above, there are different dominant fluids in the body. Each combination has a different impact on the body. With that being said, certain foods might cause a serious problem on some people while having no effects on others.

Another common misconception between the food natures is that some think the hotness and coldness of an ingredient or food are related to how it is served. The truth is that the potency of food has nothing to do with the fact that the food is cooked or refrigerated. For instance, while Persian rice is served warm, rice is believed to have a cold nature and should be eaten with something that is considered as Garmi ( with hot nature). That’s the reason that rice is mostly mixed with saffron ( hot nature) in Iranian dishes.

Along with that, Persian side dishes usually play an important rule in balancing the nature of food. Let’s say a meal is cold by its nature, therefore it should be moderate with a hot nature side dish. Fish ( cold nature) and pickled garlic ( sir torshi– hot nature) or Persian lentil rice ( Adas Polow-cold nature) and raisins or dates (hot nature) are examples of foods that usually come with their side dishes.

It is important to keep in mind that in Iranian food culture, each dish usually is consumed along with specific side dishes that are suitable for them.

Zeytoon parvardeh - Hot and cold nature in Persian food culture

Zeytoon parvardeh(Persian marinated olives with walnuts and pomegranate) is a popular side dish. the hot nature of walnuts and olives is moderated by pomegranate molasses ( cold nature)

Another interesting thing about natures in Iranian food culture is that not only each dish has its certain side dishes, but even each weather and temperature has some specific foods and snacks to help balance the body.

Foods with hot nature (garmi) are usually eaten during cold weathers to keep the body warmer and prevent it from diseases. And cold nature foods (sardi) are consumed during the warm seasons to prevent heat-stroke and problems that often are caused by hot weather.

for example, Abdoogh Khiar ( Persian cold cucumber and yoghurt soup), watermelon and fish are cold and consumed during summer while certain types of soups, boiled turnip or cooked roots are more popular during winter due to their hot nature.

Abdoogh Khiar - Hot and cold nature in Persian food culture

abdoogh khiar ( Persian cold yoghurt soup) has a cold nature and is a popular vegetarian Persian dish during summer

The impact of hot and cold foods on the body

While Persian food culture believes that each body type reacts differently to foods, there are general rules that determine the nature of a food or its ingredients. Hot foods usually make the temperature of the body higher, improve digestion and give a feeling of light in the body. However, consuming a huge amount of hot foods might cause rashes, vomiting or heartburns.

On the other hand, cold foods provide nourishment and make the body stronger and more steady. However, just like hot foods, overconsuming cold foods might lead to a series of problems. For example, they give a sense of heaviness in the body and harm the immune system. Cold foods also make the digestion harder.

 

yoghurt with mint and rose petals- Hot and cold nature in Persian food culture

yoghurt (cold nature) is balanced with rose petals and mint ( hot nature)

To help you balance your meals easier, here is a list of hot and cold items that are usually used in Iranian cooking:

 Persian food with hot nature

Fruits:

  • Apricot
  • Cherry
  • dates
  • Coconut
  • Mango
  • Peach

Vegetables:

  • Chives
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Pumpkin

Others :

  • Honey
  • Saffron
  • Mint
  • Rosewater
  • Butter
  • Poultries
  • Goat Milk
  • Lamb
  • Shrimp
  • Basil
  • Ginger
  • turmeric
  • Brown Sugar
  • Chilli
  • Cinnamon
  • Coffee
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Mustard
  • Rosemary
  • Vinegar

Persian food with cold nature

fruits:

  • Apple
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry
  • Watermelon

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Lettuce
  • Mushroom
  • Spinach
  • Tomato
  • Watercress

Others:

  • Cheese
  • Egg
  • Cow milk
  • Cow’s meat
  • Fish
  • Yoghurt
  • Cream
  • Rice
  • Kashk (fermented yoghurt)
  • Salt
  • Tea
  • Green tea
Persian tea and sugar stick - Hot and cold nature in Persian food culture

Tea with rock candy (Nabat) has been a really popular choice among Iranian to help moderate the cold nature foods and digestion.

There are lots and lots of interesting examples of balancing the nature of foods in Persian food culture that you can easily find by looking into each food and its side dishes And balance your meals by knowing the nature of the foods and your body type.

Hope you enjoy the habit of balancing hot and cold nature in your diet. Stay happy and healthy!