Eating According to TCM: Five Foods for Summer
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system thousands of years old and incorporates many different modalities. TCM theory emphasizes that Mother Nature provides the right kind of food for the right kind of environment. For instance, if the weather is cold, then warming, nutrient-dense foods are best for the body. Likewise, when summer rolls around, it is best to partake of cooling foods and foods abundant during this season.
Summer is a time of great abundance. Or as the Chinese refer to it, the time of utmost yang. The days are longer and warmer. And everything and everybody seems to be more active. The warmth of the summer sun encourages growth and maturation. In TCM, summer relates to the element of fire and the heart and small intestine energetic pathways or meridians. Because summer is a time of growth, many fruits and vegetables become abundant during the season. And because the season tends to be the warmest, it is important to stay cool and hydrated.
The summer months are generally hot and therefore the body needs to be kept cool. This is the perfect time to eat more raw foods that can clear heat. But as with anything, don’t overdo it. Too many cold or raw foods can wreak havoc on the digestive tract causing spasms, tightness and contractions. This will make the body work harder to warm the food being eaten, which can then deplete the Qi of the spleen and stomach meridians. Therefore cooked foods and even soups are still recommended during the warm summer months. They are usually made with seasonally-available foods or eaten at room temperature to avoid any digestive conflict.
It is best to avoid heavy, greasy and fried foods during the summer months, as they can also clog up the digestive system. They can also create excess phlegm in the lungs leading to respiratory problems. And when cooking during the season of summer, it is best to create meals quickly and simply by grilling or stir frying.
As mentioned, foods cooling or neutral in nature and hydrating foods are all good choices during the summer months. Here are some foods recommended to eat throughout the season of summer.
1. Summer Vegetables: Things like peppers, eggplant, onions and summer squash are all good choices. They tend to be high in water content which helps keep the body cool.
2. Greens: Foods like cabbage, kale, broccoli, Swiss chard and spinach are great choices to add to a salad or even to stir fry. They tend to be neutral to cooling in nature.
3. Melons: Melons are high in water content, so they are great to have around on those really hot summer days for replenishing lost fluids. They are also non-calorie dense, so they won’t be heavy on the stomach.
4. Seafood: While most meats tend to be warming in nature, seafood is not. It leans more heavily toward the cooling nature of food. This makes it a great choice for summer dinners. It’s also high in protein and easy to throw on the grill.
5. Fruit: Summer is when there is an abundance of fruits. Most fruit tends to be cooling in nature, but the high sugar content can be detrimental to the spleen. The best choices are fruits grown in tropical climates, as they have the highest water content.
If you need more help understanding or designing a proper seasonal eating plan, contact us. We want to help identify what plan works best for you.