Saturday, August 8, 2009

Foods for the Summer Season

By Junie Norfleet, L.Ac.

According to Chinese medicine theory, the summer season is associated with the element Fire, which corresponds to the Heart, Small Intestine, San Jiao, and Pericardium organ systems. The Heart system is the Sovereign Ruler, enabling us to see clearly and to serve with compassion. The Small Intestine system assists in digestion and assimilation of the foods consumed by separating pure and impure and extracting nourishment from ingested foods. The Pericardium system is the "Heart Protector," while the San Jiao system is responsible for the movement of fluids in the body.

The fire element is symbolic of yang, and is manifested as heat, great activity, reaching outward and moving forward in our lives and in nature. Since the fire element rules the heart, mind and spirit, the summer is a time to pacify and nourish our spirits and to find joy in hot summer days and warm summer nights. A balance in the fire element provides a strong and healthy heart, a mind that is calm, sleep that is refreshing, and proper absorption of ingested foods.

To maintain good health, food choices change with the seasons. Summer is a time of growth and maturation of flowers and vegetables. The qi of the plant is the most vital when the plant blooms. It is also a season of increased heat and activity.

The foods that we consume in the summer should help to keep us cool and energized. Foods with cool properties can clear heat, reduce toxins and generate body fluids. Eating more organic, locally grown raw fruits and vegetables at this time of year is ideal, particularly if you have strong Spleen and Stomach systems.

Foods that are cooling tend towards the green end of the color spectrum. Lettuce, cucumbers and watercress are some of the coolest. Fish and seafood are more cooling, whereas most meats are warming.

Below are some suggestions for foods to be sure to include in the summer diet. Be aware that melons are very cooling, and when eaten alone, can produce dampness. If eaten as a part of the meal or as a dessert, their cool nature can also slow the digestive process of the meal.

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Lemon, Orange, Peach, Apricot, Pear

Snow Peas, Asparagus, Spinach, Bamboo, Sprouts, Bok Choy, Watercress, Broccoli, Summer Squash, Cucumber, Chinese Cabbage, Corn, White Mushrooms, Seaweed, Winter Melons

Mung Beans, White Lentils

Cilantro, Mint, Dill

General Guidelines for Summertime Eating:
  • Increase foods with the yin qualities of being moist and cooling. The most yin of foods are fruits followed by vegetables. Overeating yin nourishing foods can create dampness by taxing the Spleen system. Chinese medicine recognizes that dampness can help to hold health conditions in place, so be cautious not to eat only yin nourishing foods.
  • Reduce the foods with the yang qualities of concentration and heat. These are proteins such as meats, nuts, seeds, beans, fats, dairy products, eggs and whole grains.
  • Have a variety of colors on your plate and an abundant variety of vegetables.
  • Cook lightly, steaming or simmering foods as quickly as possible.
  • Use little salt and more water.
  • Drink hot liquids and take warm showers to induce sudden sweating and to cool the body.
  • Drink flower and leaf teas like chrysanthemum, mint and chamomile. (See recipe on previous page.)
  • Slice a cucumber or lemon and place it in a pitcher of water. Sip it through the day for a nice, refreshing drink that is tasty and cooling.
  • Avoid iced drinks and ice cream as the cold temperature causes the digestion to slow and depletes the Spleen's energy.
  • Avoid heavy foods such as meats and too many nuts, seeds, and grains, especially on hotter days, since these can cause sluggishness.
Strive to Acquire the Following Eating Habits:
  • Chew your food well.
  • Stop eating when you are seven-tenths full to enhance digestion and to support the body's ability to properly process waste products.
  • Eat in a quiet, non-stressful atmosphere.
  • Finish your last meal of the day three hours before bedtime.
  • Eat a diet of primarily lightly cooked foods, especially if you have weak digestion.
Remember to eat colorful, lightly prepared meals, to be active and outgoing, and to nourish your mind and spirit as you enjoy your summer.


Cold Chrysanthemum Tea for the Summertime

The recipe below was published by Diane Joswick, L. Ac. This tea is especially good to quench thirst. I have modified the amounts of the chrysanthemum green tea and water in the recipe to make a smaller amount.


15-20 White Chrysanthemum Flowers
1 teaspoons of Jasmine Yinhao Green Tea
1 liter of water


Wash the chrysanthemum.
Put chrysanthemum and tea into a cook pot.
Pour in 1 liter of water and bring it to boiling.
Reduce heat and continue to cook for 20 minutes.
Put in the honey.
Remove pot from the heat and allow tea to cool till room temperature.
Strain the tea and put into refrigerator.

Serve the tea slightly chilled.

Enjoy your summer!