By Cara Frank, L.OM.
Healthy eating tips for the summer are a little tricky. Since the weather is warm, you need light, cooling foods. Juicy peaches, sweet watermelons, fresh tomatoes. The right foods are easy to find. One trip through your garden or a walk through a farmer’s market and you’ll have the perfect summer meal.
It should come as no surprise that I recommend eating lots of fruits and vegetables in the summer. In fact, I recommend eating fruits and vegetables all year, but in the summer they are especially important. Summer is a yang season and is associated with the fire element. Fire governs the heart and small intestine. When fire is balanced within the body, the heart governs and circulates the blood properly and the intestines properly digest food. Emotionally you are balanced, sensitive, warm and enthusiastic. You feel good. There are a few simple guidelines to keep fire balanced.
1. Focus on yin-nourishing foods. Yin foods are generally wet and cool. Fruits and vegetables (especially green vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers and watercress) nourish the yin. For protein, eat fish or seafood instead of meat. Smoothies and salads are yin and are excellent summer meals. That having been said: all practitioners of Chinese medicine warn against over consumption of cold and raw foods in any season, as it is taxing to the digestion.
2. Eat moderately. Avoid huge meals.
3. Eat bitter foods. Bitter foods support the fire element. Coffee, tea and chocolate (without sugar) are all bitter and moderate amounts of them are appropriate for summer health. This is the season you can call your coffee a health food. Asparagus, bitter greens like kale, arugula or escarole, celery and rhubarb are all good foods for the summer. Moderate amounts of salty foods also nourish the yin. Remember to include naturally salty foods such as celery, shellfish and duck to nourish the water element.
4. Eat small amounts of fermented foods with your larger meals. A few tablespoons of saurkraut or kimchee aids digestion. The enzymes found in these foods support the health of the small intestines which assists digestion and nutrient absorption.
5. Avoid excessive consumption of iced and frozen drinks and food. Even though we want to feel cool, our digestion still needs warmth. Eating too many cold and icy foods harms our normal digestive fire leaving feeling cold and sluggish.
Eat Your Main Meal in the Afternoon
If you focus on yin and bitter foods, then your diet is cooling and light. But what happens when you need more energy than a slice of watermelon provides? This is when the timing of your meals matters. If you need a heavier meal, eat it mid to late afternoon. “Picnic time” is the best time to fuel up. Avoid eating a big meal early or late in the day.
By eating mostly fresh, light, wet foods and including a heavy meal only in the afternoon, you will help your fire burn bright but not out of control. You’ll feel light, cool and energized. Your heart, circulation and digestion will be strong. You won’t feel bloated or full.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses nutrition as a tool to maintain health and promote healing. Eating a yin nourishing diet with your heavy meal in the late afternoon is good general advice, but your constitution may need a slightly different routine. The proportion of yin foods matters and can vary from person to person. To get the best summer eating tips for your constitution, contact us and together we’ll make a plan that’s perfect for you.
We like making cooling teas from peppermint or chrysanthemum to refresh ourselves when the weather is hot.
Here’s a list of hydrating, yin nourishing summertime foods. Notice that the majority of them are green. Most of these summer heat clearing foods are fairly obvious, but a few might expand your repertoire of dishes to enjoy.
·Watermelon and Peel
About Cara Frank, L.OM.
Cara Frank, L.OM. was raised by in a health food store in Brooklyn NY. When she was 8 she cartwheeled 5 miles from Greenwich Village through Soho and Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge. For over 30 years she has had the same crazy passion for Chinese medicine. At 17 she had her first acupuncture treatment. At 20 she enrolled in acupuncture school. 1n 1998 she went to China to study where she fell deeply in love with herbs and has never recovered.
Cara is the founder of Six Fishes Healing Arts in Philadelphia where she maintains a busy acupuncture practce . She is the president of China Herb Company and she is the Academic Director of the Department of Chinese Herbology at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies. You can read her full bio or schedule an appointment.