One of the best ways to help keep your body healthy and in balance is by eating correctly. We all know that we need to have a varied, balanced, and complete diet to make sure that we get all of our vitamins, minerals, essential acids, and everything else that our bodies need to thrive, but Chinese Medicine has held that we should also keep in mind the changes that occur seasonally in our environment and eat accordingly. So here are some tips and a few recipes to get you started for the summer season!
Summertime is the season related to the Fire Element in Chinese Five Element Theory. Fire is related to Joy, Laughter, Strong Growth, The Heart and Small Intestines, Tongue and Pulse, has a bitter taste and a scorched smell. Summertime is the height of Yang energy in the year as opposed to its Yin opposite winter. While in winter we want to sleep and hibernate, eating heavy foods and conserve energy, Summer is the opposite where we want to get out and be active, enjoy the sights, sounds, colors and warmth as we reach our closest point in the year to the sun.
Summer foods should be cooked somewhat similarly to springtime foods, lots of color and fresh vegetables and sprouts, cooked on high heat for a shorter time. Try some quick sautés and stir-fry’s. Add some spicy flavors to your dishes like red or green peppers, chilies, some fresh ginger, as well as pungent and aromatic herbs like dill, horseradish, and black pepper. If it seems strange to eat hot foods during hot weather, the idea is to use foods that have dispersing and warm qualities to bring the surface of the body into a similar temperature to the environment so that it is not bothersome or noticeable. Drinking warm drinks and taking warm showers will quickly make the body sweat, venting heat, and cooling the body.
In the summertime we naturally want to eat less and have more energy to burn as we work off the excesses and storage of winter. As such we should still take care to avoid overeating heavy meals, lots of fatty foods, excessive sweets and dairy products as all of these can lead to sluggishness and tiredness in the hot weather.
We should also avoid excessively cold foods as well. Cold causes contraction which can trap heat and cause more problems than we would have by venting them. Avoid excessive amounts of iced drinks, ice creams and desserts, raw vegetables and fruits, all of which can negatively affect the digestive organs resulting in poor digestions and low energy. That being said, when you are overheated and feeling dehydrated, nothing beats a big slice of watermelon to cool you down and help to regain some lost fluids and minerals. Just remember the main rule of Chinese Lifestyle therapy: Everything in Moderation
By eating with the seasons, you can help keep your body in balance on another level, being aware not only of your internal situation, but the external situation of the world around us.
Here are a couple of easy summer recipes that you can add to your meals from one of my favorite food books: Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford (ISBN: 978-1-55643-430-3)
Pressed Cucumber Salad
Cucumbers, sliced paper-thin
½ teaspoon salt in 1 cup water
Pinch of Dill
- Soak Cucumbers in brine 30 minutes.
- Drain and dry slightly by pressing between paper towels.
- Sprinkle with Dill and serve.
Jade Green Soup
½ cups tofu, diced
2 cups leafy greens, chopped
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon oil (optional)
3 cups broth
½ tablespoons kudzu (kuzu) dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
- Sauté or steam tofu 5 minutes. Add Salt
- Add greens, Sauté 2 minutes.
- Add broth and simmer until greens are bright-colored.
- Add kudzu mixture and simmer until thickened.
- Serves 3-4.