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I want to know how we say in English when we want to say that almonds or other dry fruits are "hot" for our body. I am an Indian, and in India, we use the word garam which literally means hot in English. I want to know how native speakers of English say this in English.

Garam foods are not necessarily hot to touch, but produce heat in the body. In excess they may be harmful or indigestible. For instance, a consumer might get pimples from eating too much of 'garam food' -for example- dry fruit.

The effects of almonds is opposite that of lemonade, which is thandaa in nature i.e. 'cold' in English when it's literally translated from Hindi. I googled it but found nothing, so I hope that I'll get my answer here.

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    What do you mean by "hot for our body"? When describing foods in English, "hot" can mean "spicy" or it can mean "at a high temperature". Almonds and dried fruit aren't either of those things, so I take it you mean something else, but I don't know what. (BTW: "hot for her body" is an idiom meaning "finds her sexually desirable". I don't think that's what you mean either.) – Jay Mar 20 '15 at 15:26
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    I've never heard any of that... Is that scientifically supported information? – Catija Mar 20 '15 at 15:37
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    I think there is a similar concept in Chinese medicine, where food can be Yin or Yang, depending on which kind of food it is. I tried Wikipedia and found this: "Food items are classified as "heating" (re 熱; "hot") or "cooling" (liang 涼; "cool")." – Damkerng T. Mar 20 '15 at 15:37
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    This dichotomy does not exist in American understanding of foods. It is simply not translatable. If you asked an American the difference between lemonade and almonds, they would point out liquid solid, but the "garam"/"non-garam" spectrum would need detailed explanation. ( <5% of the population who might sort of understand it from Yin/yang as suggested by @DamkerngT.) Once you explain the idea, you would probably find strong disagreement, because in general almonds are thought of as extremely healthy, and I (at least) have never heard any urban legends about dry fruit causing pimples. – Adam Mar 20 '15 at 15:45
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    It should be noted that even if this concept exists in a language, it still may not mean what you think it means. Different cultures have different definitions of "garam" and hence different languages will have different things defined as hot/cold. Take for example Malay where lamb/goat meat is considered hot but Arabic where lamb/goat meat is considered cold. The belief is such that people actually experience physiological symptoms such as sweating or cramps. Both can't be right but paradoxically both are. Arabic speakers really feel cool when eating lamb and Malays feel the opposite. – slebetman Mar 21 '15 at 1:14
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Western cuisine does not have a direct equivalent to garam, as there is no philosophical division of foods as there is in Ayurvedic or traditional Chinese medicine.

When the concept is translated, garam is generally translated as warming, and the opposite as cooling. If you are trying to preserve the original context and refer to Eastern concepts of warming and cooling foods, you will need to explain this, as there is simply no Western equivalent. I doubt any Westerner would guess that dill and wild rice are traditionally considered warming while cilantro and chicken eggs are considered cooling.

It is particularly important because all cuisines do understand that certain foods or flavors will be warming or cooling, but in English these terms are used much more restrictively, to refer to their literal effect on our palate or body temperature (or our perception of them). I don't think anyone would dispute that chili powder mixed into hot chocolate is warming, but no Westerner would automatically associate overconsumption with indigestion or unhealthy skin because it is warming.

In general usage, most foods would be considered neutral, and those classified as warming or cooling may differ considerably from Indian or Chinese tradition. Nuts and lemonade are neither, except when they are literally hot or cold (e.g. freshly roasted nuts or ice-chilled lemonade).

(Note also that lemonade means different things in different places. In Britain it is a fizzy drink, like a light Sprite or 7-Up without the lime. In North America it is uncarbonated and similar to what Britons would call a lemon squash, and a lemon squash can be served hot or cold).

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    I have never heard of a Lemon Squash before, nor have I ever heard of hot lemonade. So yes, lemonade would be similar to a Lemon Squash for North Americans, but asking if a North American has hot lemonade would get some very confused glances indeed. – Zibbobz Mar 20 '15 at 18:06
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    AmE here: I don't know what a lemon squash is - never heard of it. Lemonade in the States is lemon juice, water and just enough sugar to take the edge off, while still being a bit tart. Hot lemonade is what you order when you go out with friends and they order beers, but you are sick and/or pregnant, and you don't want peppermint tea. If I ordered it, I would expect to get exactly the same lemonade as I described earlier, but microwaved for a minute. – Adam Mar 20 '15 at 18:50
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    "but no Westerner would automatically associate overconsumption with indigestion or unhealthy skin because it is warming." However, people often do associate certain types of food (chocolate and fried foods often top the list of foods blamed for acne) with unhealthy skin for various other reasons. – Random832 Mar 20 '15 at 19:22
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    Wait, American lemonade isn't fizzy? This explains a lot. – A E Mar 21 '15 at 19:21
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    So, you say eggs are "cooling", and Maulik V, the self-described "Ayurvedic physician", says they are garam/"heaty". Which is correct? Are chicken eggs an exceptional kind of eggs? – Brian Hitchcock Mar 22 '15 at 13:24
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This is my take; I'm an Ayurvedic physician!

Literally, गरम (pronounced - ga ra m) in Hindi is 'hot' in English - loud and clear.

But, in India, what we mean by गरम is producing body heat after the digestion. In Ayurveda, eggs, eggplant, chili, black pepper, etc. are considered as गरम, because the heat is actually produced when they are metabolized by our digestive system. The Ayurvedic term for that is 'विपाक' (pronounced -vee paa k). Precisely, विपाक denotes very vast meaning which explain to the digestion, assimilation, metabolism, absorption and bio-transformation up to the cellular level of ingested drug or food.

It is interesting to know that Ayurveda classifies the effects of drug/food according to its 'end' effects and not the ephemeral effects. For instance, we all call a 'cold drink', but is it really cold? NO. The end effects of such drink, at a cellular level, according to the holistic science of Ayurveda, is acidic. In this way, Ayurveda may consider today's cold drinks as 'heaty drinks'.

The विपाक also has a time factor. Depending upon the state of the food/drug, the विपाक changes. This means the same food which is 'cool' becomes 'heaty' depending upon the 'time factor'. The best example I can think of is mango. A raw mango, according to Ayurveda, is 'heaty'. But then, a fully ripened mango is 'cooling' and nourishing.

Now, when we (Indians) don't find any suitable word, we take some liberty and make our own word for that. Especially in a folk medicine practice, it's widely done. I, myself, have done it to make foreigners understand. Though it looks silly, but ultimately, it conveys the meaning. For internal purposes, we set the closest term for it. And it's always 'safe' to say, 'We call it as...[newly coined term]'.

And, the term for such food is heaty. It's not an English word yet; but it's steadily getting accepted by many.

Some of the examples are here:

What do “heaty” and “cooling” in TCM really mean? - Men's Health, a reputed magazine The list of 'heaty' foods - A Chinese website on Traditional Herbs What are heaty and cooling foods - Some blog

If you google 'heaty foods' in Google News, you find many magazines and dailies are accepting this term. Maybe, some day, we'll have a better word for this. Till then, there's no harm in using it. If a native speaker asks, you may simply explain that...

heaty food - the food that produced body heat after being digested (self-made definition)

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    +1 for the links showing that 'heaty' is gaining traction. – J.R. Mar 21 '15 at 10:44
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    This answer is very good. I took liberties to fix some typos and punctuation marks. I hope you don't mind. – Damkerng T. Mar 21 '15 at 13:50
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    Just curious: are there reliable scientific studies that demonstrate the heating & cooling effects ascribed to various foods by Ayurvedic tradition, and if so, have they documented which foods are most and least "heaty", or most and least "cooling"? – Brian Hitchcock Mar 22 '15 at 13:21
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    @BrianHitchcock unfortunately no scientific evidences for heaty/cooling foods. As an Ayurvedic physician, I can get you the list (that's totally out of ELL though...haha). If modern scientists were into it, they'd have had already come up with a better term for 'heaty food'! What say? :) – Maulik V Mar 23 '15 at 4:54
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Garam is simply not translatable to American English.

This dichotomy does not exist in American understanding of foods. If you asked an American the difference between lemonade and almonds, they would say one is liquid and the other solid, but the "garam"/"non-garam" spectrum would need detailed explanation. (Some very small percentage of the population might sort of understand it from yin/yang as suggested by @DamkerngT.)

If you refer to a food as "hot," we would think you mean it is either high temperature, like a cup of boiling water, or very spicy. Cold food low temperature like ice-cream.

Once you explain the idea, you would probably find strong skepticism, because in general almonds are thought of as healthy, and I (at least) have never heard any urban legends about dry fruit causing pimples.


Related Example:

Do you have the expression "finger food" in India? In the U.S., there are some foods for which it is socially acceptable to eat without using a utensil - we can touch them directly with our fingers, even in a nice restaurant. There isn't a firm list I can give you - it would be slightly different for different communities, but it is things like bread and butter, some pizzas, fruit slices, potato chips. In some parts of the country, fried chicken is finger food. In others it is not. Sauces are never finger food unless they are being used as dip for something that is finger food like carrot sticks or tortilla chips. Hardboiled eggs are finger food unless they are cut into more than two pieces. Fried eggs are not finger food.

There are many places in the world where a literal translation of the word finger and the word food would fall very short of conveying the idea, and even when the idea was explained, people would find it peculiar. So it is with garam for us.

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    it's worth noting that none of this is specific to american english. it applies to all western english. – ell Mar 20 '15 at 18:19
  • "in general almonds are thought of as healthy" AIUI there's something of a movement to consider almonds and other nuts unhealthy unless "activated" (sprouted) – Random832 Mar 20 '15 at 19:26
  • Dry fruit contains some oil (often added to preserve it) and some sugar, both of which can cause pimples, perhaps? – Joe Mar 20 '15 at 19:59
  • "Garam is simply not translatable. This dichotomy does not exist in American understanding of foods." Has it occurred to you that the dichotomy might exist in some other variety of English? For example, Indian English? You write as if English simply doesn't exist outside the USA. – David Richerby Mar 20 '15 at 21:00
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    @DavidRicherby Wow - Of course I am aware that the dichotomy may exist elsewhere. That's why I mentioned three times in my answer that I was referring to U.S. culture and American English. The original poster said that in India, they use the word "Garam" itself, so I assumed he didn't need me to tell him that. I added a fourth reference to the U.S. in the first line, to make it even more clear that I am answering with regards to that which I know about. – Adam Mar 20 '15 at 21:34
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As others have said, the concept simply does not exist in English/American culture. The only people who would have even the foggiest idea of what you're talking about are those who have some acquaintance Indian cooking or culture, and if we discuss the concept in English, we borrow the Indian words.

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    Good point on the borrowing. If the idea caught on to the point of being commonly understood, we would eventually consider "garam" to be an English word. – Adam Mar 20 '15 at 18:05
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    @Adam: Yes, in much the same way as English has borrowed e.g. karma and guru. – jamesqf Mar 20 '15 at 18:30
  • exactly.... that's what and why I answered it! :) In fact, this is a typical problem we had when I finished my studies and started practicing! – Maulik V Mar 21 '15 at 5:05
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Aggravating.

"Garam" in this context does not really mean the food is hot or spicy. It refers to food that is aggravating to our system. Almonds are hard to digest so it overworks our digestive system. The use of the word "Garam" is not wrong because the stomach needs to heat up to sufficient temperature to digest the food which in case of "Garam" foods is higher than other foods. An overworked and overheated system produces more toxins than the body can handle. Eating too many almonds or eggs in summer time may give you pimples or ulcers. This is the body's way of disposing off those toxins. Body builders are well aware of this problem. To counter these effects drink lots of water. Almonds can be soaked in water over night to make them easier on the stomach.

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    Welcome! Unfortunately, this does not actually answer the question of how to say this in English. – Catija Mar 20 '15 at 20:20
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    @ColleenV Oh... then it needs some serious rewording to make that more clear. Either way, "aggravating" would not make anyone think of the concept because, as the other answers have stated, there is no concept of this in English. – Catija Mar 20 '15 at 20:51
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    "Aggravating" may be a good translation, I'm not familiar enough with the concept of garam to say. But the questioner is more specifically asking what native English speakers use, and AFAIK (being British) it isn't generally used here. Tell most native English that eating almonds raises their body temperature, they might not even believe you, and if they did the term they'd use for it is "increasing body temperature". They wouldn't call them "aggravating" because they're unaware of any of these unhealthy effects. – Steve Jessop Mar 20 '15 at 22:03
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    @ColleenV: excellent, would you mind ending the speculation by asking them what word they use for the concept of garam when speaking English! I agree there's a conflation of language with culture, but in common with several others here I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that the questioner is asking for a word generally intelligible internationally to a wide range of English-speakers. Therefore culture is relevant. Maybe the questioner doesn't care about that, though, and would be happy with a word unintelligible to Americans and whatnot. – Steve Jessop Mar 20 '15 at 23:21
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    Not to object to the word "aggravating", but I'm not sure if it's the right word. A five-minute reading on Ayurveda (อายุรเวท) gave me this idea: human bodies are governed by three kinds of energy (Tri Dosha; ตรีโทษ): Vata (วาตะ ~ air), Pitta (ปิตตะ ~ fire), and Kapha (กผะ ~ earth+water). It seems like different kinds of foods will aggravate different kinds of energies. And I guess that "garam" food will specifically aggravate Pitta (fire). – Damkerng T. Mar 21 '15 at 1:52
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I think we say 'fatty foods' - this would include lamb, butter, milk, sugary things, nuts. Is that closer to what you mean? I think the confusion is that english uses hot to mean spicy or hot (heat). We would not think of almonds as hot so yours is a different usage.

I thought almonds quite healthy together with walnuts. Peanuts , which actually are a legume , are 'fatty'.

Perhaps you mean just 'difficult to digest' in which case we sometimes say 'heavy' as in you don't eat a 'heavy meal' late at night.

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I am sorry to throw "cold" water on this "hot" topic, but the Hindi word garam simply means "hot, warm". In English too we talk about "hot" foods, like hot peppers, which are not actually hot, but simply spicy, body-warming.

You might be interested to know that Hindi garam गरम is actually a borrowing from Persian garm, which in turn is cognate with Sanskrit घर्म gharma "heat".

  • Simply not true. 'Hot' meaning an effect like that of the capsaicin in chili peppers is an entirely different concept from the garam 'hot' concept in Ayurveda. See the good answer by Maulik V above, or use Google. – jamesqf Mar 22 '15 at 5:33
  • @jamesqf Are you contesting that the Hindi word garam means "hot"? – fdb Mar 22 '15 at 8:30
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    No, I'm saying that the concept of garam in Ayurveda has absolutely nothing to do with anything westerners would think of as heat. It's like the example someone used above, of a "hot chick". Now the 'chick' is actually a young human female, not a newly-hatched bird, and almost certainly has the same body temperature as non-hot females, so a literal translation without cultural context makes zero sense. – jamesqf Mar 22 '15 at 17:34

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