By Dr. Kathleen Regan, ND
Summer is ruled by the fire element in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is the height of ‘yang’ energy, which rules expansion, growth, and creativity. Nature is at its peak in terms of growth and the motion of natural energy is moving upwards – meaning that this is the perfect time to harness that natural high in your energy levels! Being mindful to match your eating habits to the movement of this season can help maintain health and energy all year round.
Enjoy beautiful meals with colorful fruits and vegetables. Not only are these foods inspiring and fun but they are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Avoid COLD foods but consume COOLING foods. Cold foods cause contraction in the stomach and interfere with digestion. This includes overconsumption of raw fruit/vegetable juice*, salads or raw greens, iced drinks and ice cream. On the other hand, cooling foods are ones that disperse heat without creating coldness in the stomach. These include: salads, sprouts, fruit, cucumber, tofu and many herbal teas (see our Cooling Chrysanthemum Tea recipe).
TIP* Fresh fruit and vegetable juice is packed with nutrients but consuming too much raw food (especially with the fiber removed) can injure the spleen/stomach in Tradition Chinese Medicine. Juicing allows you to extract much more of the nutrients than you would be able to consume in the whole food form. But too much of a good thing can create imbalance. How can you tell? Stomach ache, nausea, loose stool, irritability, and light-headed are some of the signs.
Try hot-flavored spices on the hottest days. Hot peppers, fresh ginger root, horseradish and black pepper all work to bring heat to the surface of the body to be dispersed through sweat. These may feel heating at first but will eventually allow the body to release internal heat.
Avoid heavy foods on hot days as they will cause sluggishness. These include meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds and grains.
Cook food lightly with high heat for a short period of time. Consuming overcooked food adds heat into the body, which is great in the wintertime but not in the summer time! Whether you are steaming, sautéing or barbequing – stick to this suggestion.
Practice being playful and joyful with food! The summer is a time of plenty and a great time for experimenting with recipes. Not everyone is born loving to cook. But interest can be cultivated. Cultivating inspiration for food can carry you through the long, colder months ahead. Try this exercise: Think of your favorite fresh fruit, vegetable or legume. Now get onto Google and look for three recipes for that special food. Aim to replicate one of those recipes each week for the next three weeks. This is an attainable goal that might take you to new culinary places!