4 Chinese Medicine Tips for Healthy, Seasonal Summer Eating
As the weather warms, I’ve been seeking solace in shaded walks and clear mountain streams. Similar to last year, the arrival of this summer season finds me in an expansive, expectant place — one full of transformation, manifestation and fruition.
As always, the shift in seasons means adjusting how I eat — letting go of warmer fare and keeping things light, cool, simple.
In Chinese Medicine, eating and living with the seasons is an important part of staying healthy.
For each season, Chinese classics offer sage guidance for what to cultivate in our lives…and what to put on our plates.
What’s this mean during summer?
For starters, summer’s all about expansion. It’s a time for growth, creativity and outward activity. A time to be joyful, easygoing and free of grudges.
These months mark the pinnacle and maturity of the all that was planted and sprouting before. They are a time of free flow between inner self and outside world.
During summer, the Chinese classics counsel us to rise early and retire late, staying physically active and engaged with our surrounds. They also deem summer the best time for more sex. (Yes — the classics really say that.)
What’s this have to do with food?
A lot, actually. In Chinese Medicine, we don’t separate food and eating from the rest of life…or from wider patterns of living and being.
What’s on our plate in summer is part of the bigger picture of seasonal attunement. This attunement — in all aspects — supports health and vitality throughout the year.
In summer, as in every season, individual factors come into play too. In other words, eating seasonally is just one variable to consider when crafting your optimal diet. When I work with clients one-on-one, I take many variables, including personal goals, into account. That said…
Four sage guidelines for summer go this way…
1. Summer is a time to eat less, light and simply.
Compared to other times of year, portions should be smaller and food lighter in nature, reflecting the yang energy of the season.
Avoid the heavy, dense foods of winter, instead choosing simple proteins surrounded by plenty of veggies. Greens are an especially good choice, as are cucumbers and fennel. Also keep food combinations and preparation simple, easy, summery.
2. Cook foods for shorter duration at higher temperatures.
Shorter cooking at higher temperatures makes foods more cooling. By cooling, I’m not talking about whether foods are hot or cold to the touch. Rather, I mean their intrinsic thermal nature and influence on the body after eating. As the weather warms, more cooling foods are called for.
Spring is also an okay time to incorporate more raw foods for some people (though NOT anyone with digestive weakness, since raw foods are much harder to digest). In general, I recommend at least lightly steaming or sautéing the majority of your veggies. The nutrients in them will be more bioavailable that way.
3. Add pungent foods and spices, which move outward and up.
The expanding, rising qualities of the pungent flavour support the expansive, outward nature of the season. Pungent also brings heat to the surface, helping vent it through the pores. Think onions, leeks, radishes, spicy greens, ginger, garlic, pepper and mint.
One caveat: For individuals with too much upward, outward, fiery energy, lots of pungent (even during summer) can make things worse. If that sounds like you, take it easy on the hot sauce!
4. Stay hydrated (but not how you might think).
When weather’s hot, drink plenty of room-temperature or warm liquids. (In other words, pass on the iced latte.)
Might seem strange, but too much cold weakens digestion. It can also cause contraction in the body, trapping heat inside. Trust your thirst and avoid drinking too much liquid (especially with meals).
Make these changes during summer? Or have other seasonal tips? Please share in the comments!
How’s your body doing? Want summertime support?
Truly, this is a powerful time of year for jumping in and making changes. But…even if you already know what to do, going it alone can be really hard.