Eating Seasonally: Summer

Chinese medicine is rooted in observing, learning from and mirroring behavior based on the natural environment around us. In this way Chinese medicine emphasizes the consumption of local, seasonally available foods for optimal physical and emotional health. Summer is the most yang of all seasons and is associated with the Heart organ, Fire element and bitter taste. Here are some ideas for how to eat seasonally and stay cool this summer:

  • Fun twist to hydration- Add mint, cucumber or radish slices to your daily water, for an added “cooling” effect. (P.S. Alcohol has both hot and damp properties only exacerbating symptoms of heat in the body; consider going “light” on the alcohol this season, opting for cooling mocktails or simply water instead!)

  • Regulate sweating- Snacks such as watermelon, cucumber, radishes and pears can help regulate sweating.

  • Sun-kissed vegetables- Eat foods that grow above ground, such as cabbages, leafy greens, cucumbers, asparagus, etc. as they tend to receive ultimate yang energy from the sun (vs. root vegetables which are more appropriate for the winter).

  • Reduce dampness- Integrate more bitter foods (such as celery, sprouts, quinoa, seaweeds, mushrooms, chlorophyl-rich foods) to your diet. Foods classified as bitter get rid of excess heat caused by hot summer weather; this is because bitter helps clear heat, dry dampness, stimulate a healthy appetite, and promote urination and healthy bowel movements through its inherent quality of moving downward. 

  • Keep it spicy! Don’t shy away from spice altogether! If you look around the globe, many people eat spicy foods, even in the hottest time of the year. Why? Pungent (spicy) foods actually clear dampness from the body, promote sweating, which in turn helps cool the body off. From a five element perspective, the Heart (again, associated with bitter) can harass the Lung (associated with pungent) if there is imbalance in the controlling cycle, therefore it is advisable to tonify the Lung and keep the Heart in check through an appropriate balance of spicy foods.

  • Cool quality vs cool temperature- Contrary to popular belief, eating large amounts of cold food (iced beverages, smoothies, ice cream) does not assist with managing your body heat. Furthermore, it actually stifles your digestive system and can leave you feeling bloated and lethargic.If you generally have digestive issues, consider lightly steaming your veggies and eating at room temperature, rather than eating them raw. Adding foods that have an internal cooling quality to them, such as the foods mentioned above, rather than eating large amounts of food cold in temperature, is more effective at cooling you down. As an example, peppermint tea, which even if served hot, has a cooling energy. That means, shortly after you drink hot peppermint tea on a hot day, the heat begins to fade quickly and it begins to generate cool energy internally, allowing your body to cool off.

Remember, what we put into our bodies has a direct effect on either correcting imbalance within the body, or making symptoms worse. Enjoy these tips on the hottest of days and enjoy staying cool this summer.