The heat is on! In Chinese Medicine, Summer is the Fire Season and is related to the heart, blood vessels, Small Intestine and the emotions. The heart is in charge of memory, consciousness, thinking, sleep and speech. It’s not too uncommon when there is an imbalance during the summer that we see symptoms such as anxiety, inflammation, heart palpitations, and insomnia. In nature, it’s easy to see that extreme heat withers and dries plant life, and we too can easily become overheated during the summer months. By practicing these 5 tips you’ll keep your fire in check during the summer.
- Hydrate. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the summer, especially if you sweat a lot. If you work outside or sweat profusely, you may also need to add electrolytes. Coconut water (unsweetened), fresh watermelon juice and water with cucumbers added will all help replace electrolytes.
- Eat lightly and simply. Skip the heavy meals and use a few simple ingredients in your meals. Prepare vegetables by steaming or lightly simmering. Our tendency is to go for salads, but don’t overdo it with cold and raw foods because they weaken the digestive system. Visit your local farmers market to see what is in season and focus on including those ingredients in your meals. Look for brightly colored vegetables and fruits. Greens help cleanse the arteries and cools the heart. They also help control anxiety. Try our cooling Cucumber, Watermelon and Mint Salad.
- Sweat a little. A light sweat will help to cool the body and prevent overheating. While it may seem counter-intuitive to eat spicy, pungent foods such as hot peppers, fresh ginger, and horseradish during summer, they will bring body heat to the surface creating sweat, thereby cooling you down. But heavy sweating causes to much fluid loss.
- Go easy on the ice. Iced drinks, ice cream and frozen treats weaken the digestive system, hold in sweat and heat, and contract the stomach inhibiting digestion.
- Slow down. Focus on calming the heart through slow yoga, soft music, breathing exercises and meditation. Relax.
Summer is a time of activity, travel, and play. Enjoy it!
Makes 4-6 servings
- 2 cups cubed cucumber (English or Persian)
- 2 cups cubed watermelon (de-seeded)
- Juice of 2 limes
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Salt to taste
Combine above ingredients in a bowl. Serve slightly cool. Optional: Sprinkle crumbled goat or feta cheese just before serving.
Chef’s note: If making salad ahead of time, do not add lime juice and salt until just before serving.
From The Chopra Center.
Last month I talked about how to align your diet with spring by increasing sweet and pungent flavors because this facilitates the liver to regulate the energy throughout the body. Pungents also enhance digestion, disperse mucus, stimulate the Lungs, Blood and Heart, guard against mucus forming conditions such as common cold, remove obstructions and improve sluggish Liver function.
One of my favorite ways to use pungents is with fresh ginger in recipes. I love ginger tea and drink it frequently. It’s really easy to make and is one of my go-to remedies to help get over the effects that spring time allergies has on our sinuses – excess mucus! The pollen has been really high the last few days and has hit me hard. I’m drinking some of this tea as I write this!
You’ll need some fresh ginger root that you can find at most grocery stores and some filtered water. Honey or maple syrup can be added for a little sweetness.
Fresh Ginger Tea
- 1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 Tbsp. raw honey or pure maple syrup
- Peel the ginger root with a peeler or with the back of a spoon.
- Grate the ginger with a grater/zester. If you slice it, slice it thin and use more.
- In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, add ginger and turn off heat. Put the lid on it and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the water to remove the ginger.
- Add a little natural sweetener, stir and enjoy.
Incorporate fresh greens from your yard (dandelion greens) or from the farmers market along with local eggs and sweet potato and this is a healthy spring time meal.
From Healthy Green Kitchen
- 1 tablespoon organic, extra virgin coconut oil (or use olive oil)
- 2 handfuls of chopped organic greens (dandelion greens, spinach, kale and/or chard)
- 2 eggs, preferably organic and free range
- 1 small or 1/2 large organic sweet potato, baked or steamed and then sliced and drizzled with a little coconut oil, if desired
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper- to taste
- any other seasonings you like – optional
1. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet. When the pan is very hot, add the greens. Cook for several minutes, stirring sporadically, allowing them to crisp in the hot pan.
2. Break the eggs into the pan over the greens and turn the heat to very low. Cover the pan and allow the eggs to cook for 3-5 minutes, until done to your liking.
3. Using a large spatula, transfer the greens with the cooked eggs on top to your plate. Season to taste with salt, pepper, etc., and serve with sliced sweet potato.
We are what we eat, and most Chinese dietary guidelines follow on from nature. According to Chinese Medicine philosophies, if we eat seasonal foods that are similar in nature to the external environment, we remain in harmony with the environment, adapt better to changes in season and stay healthy.
During Spring, we want to reduce the intake of sour flavors and increase sweet and pungent flavors because this facilitates the liver to regulate the energy throughout the body. Think Spring green. Examples of recommended foods for the spring include onions, leeks, mustard greens, Chinese yam, wheat, dates, cilantro, mushrooms, spinach and bamboo shoots. Fresh spring greens and leafy vegetables should also be included in meals and sprouts from seeds are also a great addition. Raw, frozen and fried foods should only be taken in moderation since these are harmful to the spleen and stomach if consumed in large amounts. If you’ve overeaten during the cold winter months you may develop a heat imbalance in the spring, which leads to dry throats, bad breath, constipation, thick tongue coating and yellowish urine. Foods like bananas, pears, water chestnuts, sugar cane, celery and cucumber help to clear the excessive heat.
In wintertime we tend to bake our food to more deeply warm our bodies, however in the Spring steaming and stir-frying is more appropriate. As always, I recommend to eat what is locally grown and in season, as much as possible. Visit the local farmers market to get the freshest seasonal items. I was just at the Peachtree City Farmers Market over the weekend and got fresh onions, greens, broccoli, sweet potatoes, sprouts and carrots. See what you can find this Spring. Be sure to try the Pan Crisped Greens with Eggs and Sweet Potato recipe for an easy healthy way to include these suggestions into your diet.