Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM is all about balance. In this ancient system, the key to health is to move through the world in such a way that our bodies can remain in homeostasis, in balance. This idea connects to sleep patterns, what we eat and ultimately the flow of Qi, or energy, throughout the body. For that reason, healthy eating in summertime, according to TCM, is all about using cooling foods to balance out how hot it is outside. In other words, we can find homeostasis from the inside out.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for healthy foods to keep you cool and active all summer long.
Fresh fruits like watermelons, strawberries, tomatoes and pear are cooling and have strong yin energy. Summer meals should be predominately fresh fruits or vegetables, according to TCM. These food groups have the strongest yin energy, balancing out the fierce yang and fire energies of summer.
Fresh vegetables that are in season in your region are also a great choice, especially cooling vegetables like cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, peppers, celery, radish, carrots and cauliflower. Vegetables have the second highest yin energy, according to TCM.
Summer herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley and mint are a great, healthy addition to most recipes. These herbs are also natural diuretics and heavy-metal detoxifiers, which flush excess waste from the body.
The best foods to eat vary with geography. If you live in a place where summer days are long, but not very hot and the nights get really cool, incorporate more neutral or even warming fruits and vegetables into your summer smorgasbord. These fruits and vegetables can include most varieties of squash, especially pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash, lentils and legumes, whole grains like brown rice and root vegetables like beets, potatoes and parsnips.
In places with cooler summers, or during late summer, the fifth season according to TCM, diet is about prioritizing self-nourishment so it can be utilized as energy. Late summer is the time to choose smart sugars that won’t clog up the spleen pathway, including apples, carrots, dates, figs, grapes, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes and squash. These smart sugars also regulate the body’s blood sugar, which decreases the strain on the pancreas.
For those whose summer climate is hot, here is a recipe for a cooling, detoxifying water you can drink all summer long to keep yourself in balance.
Cooling detox water:
1 lemon1 lime½ cucumber16oz. WaterBunch of fresh mint
Slice the lemon, lime and cucumber and add to the water. Stir in the mint. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and enjoy chilled.