Is Hot or Cold Food Healthier For Us?

We all tend to care a lot about which foods are the healthiest in our diet and how much we eat. However, we don't usually question the importance that food temperature can have on our health. Is hot or cold food healthier?
Is Hot or Cold Food Healthier For Us?

Last update: 23 January, 2021

What’s healthier, hot or cold food?

This question arises precisely now that we’re starting to switch the cold dishes of summer for the exquisite hot soups of autumn. However, the myths surrounding the subject have caused a lot of confusion. That’s why we’d like to address it in detail below.

Find out the answer in this article!

Eating hot food aids digestion

Do you know why it’s advisable to eat or drink something hot even in summer?

The answer is very simple: Hot foods or liquids help us to digest. An article published in the “Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture” backs this claim.

For the stomach and intestines to work properly, it’s good that they are at the same temperature as the body. This is about 37 degrees.

So it seems logical to think that eating hot or warm food makes the digestion process easier. This way, the stomach doesn’t need to make an extra effort to reach the right temperature before it goes to work.

That’s why eating hot food is also a good option for people who suffer from digestive problems or slow digestion. And, just like spicy food, hot food is also a good way to keep warm.

Temperature increases the absorption of some nutrients

A woman preparing food in suacepans over the stove.
The right temperature of meals can increase the availability of some nutrients, such as the antioxidant compounds in tomatoes and carrots.

Another aspect to consider when choosing between hot and cold foods is how temperature affects the nutrients in the food. In some cases, the temperature can make some nutrients more accessible and absorbable. For this reason, with food, it0s best to apply some kind of cooking before eating it:

  • Raw eggs worsen the digestion of their proteins.
  • Cooked tomatoes and carrots increase the availability of antioxidant components such as lycopene and beta-carotene.
  • Cook broccoli for better access to the action of glucosinolates.

Loss of nutrients

Contrary to what we saw above, there are times when cooking food can lead to a significant loss of nutrients. This is particularly true of water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins, which are very sensitive to heat.

The main source of these vitamins in our diet are fruits and vegetables, which we can eat raw without any problems. It’s therefore a good idea to include salads and fresh fruits in our daily routine.

We’ve already seen that following them with a hot second course or a hot drink, the stomach also manages to reach the optimum temperature for work. And if we find it difficult to eat very cold foods, we can take it out of the fridge a little early to warm it up.

In the case of those vegetables that we can’t consume raw, the most suitable cooking methods are steaming, baking, or a quick stir-fry. Only the minimum amount of time to leave them al dente.

Hot or cold food to prevent poisoning

Cooked fish on a plate with parsley and red onions.
Foods such as fish, eggs, and meats must be thoroughly cooked to eliminate possible pathogenic microorganisms.

Food safety is also important when it comes to eating. This is especially so when preparing and cooking food, when we can take the greatest risks. With good management of cooking temperatures, we can save ourselves many potentially significant health problems.

Bacterial growth is directly related to temperature. By applying heat, we can eliminate most pathogens. For this reason, it’s recommended that the most sensitive foods (meat, eggs, or fish) be cooked very well.

We must also ensure that no portion of food is left raw or undercooked. Once cooked, you should consume them in the shortest time possible or keep them above 65 degrees. If you want to eat them cold, it’s important to maintain the standards of cooking and proper preservation in the cold.

Hot food usually tastes better

The taste of food is perceived on the tongue thanks to the taste buds. A food temperature of between 20 and 37 degrees favors the perception of flavors. And, in many cases, softer and smoother textures are achieved.

On the other hand, when we eat very cold food, we have to taste it for a while to appreciate its flavor. However, we must be careful with very hot foods.

On the one hand, we tend to reject them to avoid burning our tongues. And on the other hand, continuous eating of foods that are too hot can lead to problems of the esophagus and stomach, according to a study published in the journal “Medicine”.

As the Cancer Research Agency points out, “very hot drinks (above 65 degrees) are classified as possible carcinogens”. They reached this conclusion after reviewing about 1,000 studies investigating the intake of hot drinks and their possible connection to cancer.

Although we may think that the taste of food won’t make it a more or less healthy option, it’s very important to know how to enjoy food. Beyond quantities, nutrients, or their absorption, food also has a lot to do with emotions and well-being.

Enjoying every bite of tasty food will turn our meals into an act of pleasure and enjoyment. And this, although it may not seem relevant, is also part of good health.

How do you choose the best option?

Of all the advantages and disadvantages of hot or cold food, we consider the following keys to making a better choice:

  • Combining hot and cold food at each meal, all year round.
  • Steam, bake, or stir-fry vegetables for a short time to minimize vitamin loss and improve the availability of nutrients.
  • Cook meat, fish, and eggs thoroughly and eat them fresh or reheated.

Some foods need cooking to better absorb nutrients. This doesn’t mean that we can’t eat them cold. However, be sure to always respect the optimal conditions of conservation and remember that warm or hot foods tend to taste better.

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  • Boland M., Human digestion a processing perspective. J Sci Food Agric, 2016.
  • Chai T., Shen Z., Zhang P., Lin Y., et al., Comparison of high risk factors (hot food, hot beverage, alcohol, tobacco, and diet) of esophageal cancer: a protocol for a systematic review and meta analysis. Medicine, 2019.