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Staying Cool this Summer with Chinese Medicine: Eating for the Summer

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the approach to eating in the summer focuses on balancing the body's energy and countering the external heat. Here are some key principles and practices recommended in TCM for eating during the summer:


1. Cool and Hydrating Foods


To combat the external heat and prevent the body from overheating, TCM recommends consuming foods that have cooling properties.


These include:


Fruits: Watermelon, cantaloupe, pears, and berries are hydrating and cooling.

Vegetables: Cucumber, lettuce, celery, and spinach help cool the body.

Herbs and Teas: Mint, chrysanthemum tea, and green tea are cooling and refreshing.


2. Light and Easily Digestible Meals


The digestive system can be weakened by excessive heat, so it's advised to eat light meals that are easy to digest:


Soups and Broths: Light soups with seasonal vegetables can be nourishing without being too heavy.

Steamed or Blanched Vegetables: These retain nutrients and are easier on the digestive system.

Fish and Poultry: Opt for lean proteins like fish and chicken over heavy red meats.


3. Avoid Excessive Heat-Inducing Foods


Certain foods can increase internal heat, which is undesirable in the hot summer months:


Spicy Foods: Hot peppers, ginger, and other spicy ingredients can raise body temperature.

Fried and Oily Foods: These are harder to digest and can contribute to internal heat.


4. Stay Hydrated


Maintaining adequate hydration is crucial:


Water: Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Herbal Teas: In addition to water, herbal teas can provide hydration and cooling effects.


5. Incorporate Bitter and Sour Flavors


Bitter and sour flavors can help clear heat and support digestion:


Bitter Melon: A cooling vegetable commonly used in TCM.

Lemon and Lime: These citrus fruits can be added to water or dishes for a refreshing taste and cooling effect.


6. Seasonal Foods


Eating foods that are in season is a key principle in TCM, as they are believed to be more harmonious with the body’s needs at that time of year:


Summer Squash: Light and easy to digest, perfect for summer.

Tomatoes and Bell Peppers: Rich in nutrients and water content.


7. Moderation and Mindful Eating


TCM also emphasizes the importance of eating in moderation and being mindful of how food makes you feel:


Balanced Meals: Include a variety of nutrients without overeating.


Chew Thoroughly: Aid digestion by chewing food well and eating slowly.


By following these guidelines, you can help maintain balance and health during the summer months according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Of course, when we speak about eating for the summer, we should also mention that the summer corresponds to the fire element and the color red.


So when one wants to eat "in season," it's often encouraged to incorporate more red foods according to TCM.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the color red and its association with summer are significant. Summer is linked to the Fire element in TCM, which is associated with the heart, the color red, and the emotion of joy. The foods and practices recommended for summer aim to support the heart and the Fire element while balancing the body's heat.


The Color Red and Summer in TCM


Symbolism of Red


Heart and Blood: Red is the color of the heart and blood. It represents vitality, warmth, and energy.


Fire Element: Red corresponds to the Fire element, which governs the summer season. This element is linked to passion, energy, and activity.


Foods Associated with Red and the Fire Element


To support the Fire element and the heart during summer, TCM recommends incorporating certain red foods that can nourish the heart and blood while also balancing the body's heat.


Red Foods for Summer


Tomatoes: Cooling and hydrating, tomatoes help clear heat and support heart health.

Watermelon: Extremely hydrating and cooling, watermelon also supports the heart.

Red Bell Peppers: Rich in vitamins and cooling properties, they are great for summer.

Strawberries: Hydrating and cooling, they also provide beneficial antioxidants.

Red Beans (Adzuki Beans): These are nourishing for the blood and can help remove excess heat and dampness from the body.

Cherries: While slightly warming, they can invigorate the blood and are beneficial in moderation.

Goji Berries: Nourishing for the blood and yin, they can support overall vitality.


TCM Principles for Eating Red Foods in Summer


Balance Cooling and Warming Properties: While red foods can be nourishing, it's important to balance their properties. Some red foods, like cherries, can be slightly warming, so they should be consumed in moderation.


Hydration and Lightness: Focus on hydrating foods with high water content, such as watermelon and tomatoes, to counteract the summer heat.


Support Heart Health: Red foods often support the heart and circulation, which are crucial during the summer when the heart can be more vulnerable to the effects of heat.


Example Meals Incorporating Red Foods


Summer Salad: A salad with tomatoes, red bell peppers, strawberries, cucumber, and mint. This provides cooling, hydration, and nourishment.

Chilled Tomato Soup (Gazpacho): A refreshing soup made with tomatoes, red bell peppers, cucumbers, and a touch of garlic.

Watermelon and Goji Berry Smoothie: A hydrating and nourishing drink perfect for hot days.

Red Bean Salad: A salad with adzuki beans, cherry tomatoes, and fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley.


In TCM, incorporating red foods into your diet during summer can support the heart and balance the Fire element, which is predominant in this season. By focusing on hydrating, cooling, and heart-nourishing foods, you can maintain balance and vitality through the summer months.


Red foods for staying cool in the summer
Eating For Optimal Summer Health

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