6 Tips for Healthy Summer Eating According to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Marked by the Summer Solstice, summer is officially upon us and we have certainly been feeling the heat here in New York City. With this shift in seasons to hotter temperatures and increased humidity, it is important to eat in accordance with the season for optimal digestion and overall health. In Chinese Medicine, the season of summer is considered the most yang of seasons, in contrast to the darker and calmer yin of winter, and is a season of abundance and exuberance, filled with long days and sunshine.

In the most yang of seasons, the body’s energy processes are most active, and we should cultivate this yang energy according to the season. According to Chinese Medicine, the season of summer correlates to the element of Fire, symbolic of a time of heat and moving outward in nature and our lives. In Chinese medicine, the Fire element rules the heart, small intestine, tongue, and Shen, or spirit.

It is important to eat foods that are in season during summer. We want to be sure to soothe and cool the body during the hot weather and keep body fluids abundant. Read on for some easy tips on how to eat for the summer season:

1. Keep it light. Summer and the Fire element are directly connected with the small intestine, which means that summer and indigestion go hand-in-hand. By opting for a lighter diet instead of heavier foods we can avoid such digestive issues. Remember to eat in moderation, as over-consumption in general, and particularly of cooling foods, can cause fatigue and even diarrhea.

summer watermelon

2. Fluids! Fluids are particularly important in the warm summer months. The heat can dry up body fluids, so consuming cooling fluids to help disperse that heat and build body fluids is recommended. Drink plenty of water – try keeping a pitcher with lemon and cucumber slices on hand to sip throughout the day. Watermelon juice is another go-to beverage for summertime, as it cools the body and cleanses the system. Green tea is another good option, as it is said to disperse summer heat, expel toxins, and even calm the mind.

summer drinks3. Keep it cool. In Chinese medicine, all foods are classified by the quality of temperature and taste that they have. Foods that have cool or cold properties have the ability to clear heat, reduce toxins, and create body fluids, which is just what we need in the summer. Usually, foods with cool properties tend to be green, such as lettuce, cucumbers, watercress, spinach, mint, dill, and cilantro. Seafood, tomatoes, wheat, and barley are also considered cooling foods.

summer veggies4. Let’s get bitter. In Chinese medicine, the bitter flavor corresponds to the fire element and the season of summer. Bitter foods stimulate the heart and small intestine. To eat in accordance with the season, including foods with bitter-cool and bitter-cold flavors in moderation is suggested. Some examples are dandelion, parsley leaves, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, kale, celery, corn, and sesame seeds.

5. Fruits and veggies. In addition to the foods mentioned above, here are some fruits and vegetables that will help regulate your body temperature, keeping you cool and balanced.

              • Apricot
              • Apple
              • Lemon
              • Kiwi
              • Orange
              • Pear
              • Pineapple
              • Tangerine
              • Cantaloupe
              • Peach
              • Asparagus
              • Sprouts
              • Bamboo
              • Bok choy
              • Broccoli
              • Chinese cabbage
              • White mushroom
              • Snow peas
              • Spinach
              • Summer squash
              • Seaweed
              • Mung beans

6. Some things to avoid. While eating a balanced diet is important, there are some things that are helpful to keep limited during the summer months. Try to stay away from hot, dry, and very spicy foods, which are best consumed during the colder months. While we may be tempted to reach for those ice cold foods such as ice cream, this can cause the digestive system to slow down – opt for items such as watermelon or pineapple instead.

Dairy, fried foods, and heavy, greasy foods are also best to avoid for optimal digestion. Steering clear of sugary drinks such as soda is beneficial too, as these don’t actually relieve thirst and add more toxins to the body. Check out the Chrysanthemum Tea recipe below as an alternative.

Cold Chrysanthemum Tea 

Cold Chrysanthemum Tea is a great summer recipe to quench thirst, treat dehydration, and even prevent sunstroke. It clears heat, benefits qi, and promotes fluid secretion, which is just what our bodies need in the summer weather.

Ingredients: 

  • 60 – 80 White Chrysanthemum Flowers 
  • 3 teaspoon of Jasmine Green Tea
  • Rock sugar or honey 
  • 4 liters of water 

Instructions: 

  1. Wash the chrysanthemum. 
  2. Put chrysanthemum and tea into a cooking pot. 
  3. Pour in 4 liters of water and bring it to boiling. 
  4. Reduce heat and continue to cook for 20 minutes. 
  5. Put in rock sugar or honey. 
  6. Remove pot from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  7. Strain the tea and place in the refrigerator.
  8. Serve the tea chilled and enjoy!

Recipe by Sharon Yeung

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