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8branches Chinese Medicine

Fresh summer foods

Food just seems to taste better in the summer, doesn’t it? Whether its crisp, farm-fresh fruits and veggies or a meal hot off the grill, we wait all year for these three months of eating al fresco. Take advantage of the richly abundant fruits and vegetables, especially locally grown, by visiting farmers markets weekly  – check out the Milwaukee farmers markets guide. Seek out variety and the brighter the colors, the better. Try adding a little spicy, pungent or even fiery flavors, but go easy on the salt.

A diet abundant in fresh, local, organic vegetables and fruits encourages good health any time of year.

Just as warming soups support the yang energy in the winter, the abundance of juicy yin foods keep us cool in the summer. Through sweat, we lose fluids (yin), so replenish with fresh foods and refreshing drinks to stay hydrated. It might sound counter-intuitive, but drink warm liquids to induce gentle sweating, which is a better way to cool the body than imbibing icy liquids. Summer heat combined with too many cold foods weakens the digestive organs. Although they are delicious and ubiquitous in the summer, iced drinks and ice cream can contract the stomach and hinder proper digestion.

In the summer, cook lightly: steaming, simmering and sautéing are great ways to retain the fresh flavors.

Here are some examples of summer foods that are cooling and refreshing:

-Lettuce, Watercress and Sprouts (mung, soy and alfalfa)

-Apple, Apricot, Peach, Grapes, Nectarine, Pineapple, Mango, Berries (all varieties)

-Watermelon, Cantaloupe

-Lemon, Lime, Orange

-Cucumber, Cabbage, Tomato, Broccoli, Zucchini, Summer Squash

-Tofu, Fish, Seafood

-Chamomile or Green tea

-Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Mint, Parsley, Peppermint

Eating lighter, more frequent meals is an excellent practice for good health, especially in summer.  Avoid heavy foods that can cause you to feel sluggish: meats, eggs or large amounts of nuts and grains. Most important – drink plenty of water! Try throwing a slice of cucumber, lemon or mint in your water to keep your water intake interesting and extra-refreshing.

Spice things up (gently) with red and green hot peppers, fresh ginger, red pepper, black pepper and cayenne. Be careful not to overdo. These may initially raise the body temperature, but will ultimately disperse heat out to the body’s surface. Those pungent flavors help promote sweat. Eating foods with pungent flavors enhances the lungs function and maintains the normal sweating mechanism in summer. Sweat is the fluid of the heart. Careful to avoid excessive sweating as it scatters heart-qi and weakens the mind causing symptoms like being easily annoyed, low spirit, restlessness and sleeping difficulties. Read more about the heart here.

Summer can be hot and humid, which may lead to lethargy, weakness, fever, thirst, lack of appetite and possibly gastrointestinal distress. Be sure to avoid exhaustion and seek medical attention if necessary, read more on heat emergencies here.

Here are a few of 8branches’ favorite recipes to beat the heat:

Mung Bean Soup is another vitamin-rich great way to cool down. Mung beans are very cold in energy and cool the body quickly, so caution not to eat too much. Here is a great recipe from Rachel Ray to inspire. Health issues associated with heat include, heat exhaustion, fever, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, high blood pressure, acne, skin eruption, nose bleed, constipation, thick or yellow phlegm, headache, excessive eating, shortness of breath, or wheezing. 

Yummy! Watermelon Salad. Watermelon, lime, and mint are cooling, refreshing and together a satisfying summer salad. Watermelon helps clear damp-heat and can encourage the elimination of fluids (diuretic).  Enjoy this easy recipe with additional tips on combating damp-heat this summer. Symptoms of dampness may include: heavy, tired, sluggish and fuzzy headed, manifesting as fluid retention/imbalances, excessive weight, plaque, cysts, or anything with mucus or puss.

Or this recipe for a simple Japanese Cucumber Salad.