In Traditional Chinese Medicine, foods, just like acupuncture points and herbs, each exert a specific action in the body. This means that we can use foods as a first-line form of medicine to treat many common health conditions (such as colds, inflammation, chronic digestive issues, and even skin issues). It also means that we can use foods to keep us healthy and in sync with the natural world - an idea that, in Chinese Medicine, also leads to the prevention of disease.
So, the summer is HOT in New England, which means eating foods that are cooling to the system. The summer is also the season of the Heart energy - and the Heart energy is nourished through vibrant and varied colors, which can come across in the foods we eat.
So here are our top 5 summer foods:
Mint is cooling to the body as a whole, and particularly the Liver energy system. This system is in charge of circulating energy throughout the whole body - which means that mint can both cool the body, and get that coolness flowing throughout your system.
Strawberries are also a cooling fruit, and the high water content is helpful in keeping you hydrated during particularly warm days. Strawberries also moisten the Lungs and help with a dry cough or dry throat - a common symptom of summer weather. Plus, their red color activates the Heart energy of the body and the season.
Watermelon is another particularly cooling and moistening fruit, making it idea for the summer months. The white part of the fruit, where the red fruit touches the green rind, is actually an herb (Xi Gua) that we use in herbal formulas specifically for sicknesses during the summertime. The herb as a whole helps to keep your body cool and refreshed. It generates fluids so is particularly helpful after a summer workout, a stomach bug, or overindulgence of alcohol.
Mung Beans are a staple of many Asian cuisines. They clear heat from the body, even when they are eaten at a warm temperature, such as mung bean soup. It is important to remember that even in the summer, eating too much cold food can compromise digestion, so including warm temperature meals is important. (And eating warm foods helps you sweat, which actually cools you down!) Mung beans supplement the body's fluids, reduce swelling, and reduce damp-heat accumulation in the body (such as red, hot, inflammed joints or leg edema.) They help to quench thirst.
Watercress, too, is cooling to the body. Specifically, it is cooling to the digestive system, urinary system, and the lungs. It generates fluids within the system and can prevent a wide array of heat-related disorders. The slightly bitter nature is good at clearing heat, and the spicy taste helps to push heat-related toxins out of the body.