Summertime Eating Guide, According to Chinese Medicine

by Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons |

Summertime Eating Guide, According to Chinese Medicine

As the weather warms, I’ve been seeking solace in shaded walks and clear mountain streams. The arrival of this summer season finds me in an expansive, expectant place – one full of transformation, manifestation and fruition.

A transition in seasons means to manage my diet. As usual, I have to let go of warmer foods and consider taking light, cool, and simple ones.  Abundant local veggies take center stage. Green soups play a staring role, as do farm-fresh eggs, wild-caught fish and a-maz-ing berries. But what about ice cream, you ask

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, eating and living with the seasons is an important part of staying healthy.

For each season, Chinese classics offer sage guidance for what to cultivate in our lives...and what to put on our plates.

What does this mean for summer?

Summer is all about expansion. It’s a perfect moment for self-development, innovation, and external ventures. A moment to be happy, relaxed, and no displeasure. These months mark the pinnacle and maturity of the all that was planted and sprouting before. This time bridges the gap between our inner self and the external world.

During summer, the Chinese classics counsel us to rise early and retire late, staying physically active and engaged with our surroundings. Also, the classics portray summers as the ideal time for more sex.

What does this have to do with summer?

A lot, actually.  In view of the Chinese Medicine theory, we don’t set apart food and eating from our entire life...or from our existence.

The food on our plate shows a broader perspective of how we bring seasons in harmony with us. This balance promotes health and wellness around the year.

Just like other seasons, in summers, individual factors play an important role too. In other words, considering seasonal foods is just one factor when you design your healthy diet. When I have one-on-one consultation with clients, I take into account many variables including individual goals.

You may be wondering: How can I incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine into my own kitchen?

Here are 5 ways to stay healthy with Chinese Medicine this summer:

  1. Summer is a time to eat less, light, and simply.

Unlike other seasons, portion sizes should be smaller and food lighter in nature, manifesting the yang energy of the season.

Avoid the heavy, dense foods of winter, instead choosing simple proteins surrounded by plenty of veggies. Greens, cucumber, and fennel make an excellent choice.

Also keep food combinations and preparation simple, easy, summery.

  1. Prepare foods for shorter time at higher temperatures..

Shorter cooking at higher temperatures will making cooling foods slightly warmer, will keep your vegetables crunchy, and keep your Middle Burner fired up.

By cooling, I’m not talking about just the physical properties - every ingredient has an intrinsic thermal nature and influence on the body after eating. As the weather warms, we may crave more "cooling" foods but we still need to be aware of the effect that may have on our digestion.

For those whose constitutions allow them to incorporate raw vegetables into their diet, the warm summer months are the time.  In general, I recommend at least lightly steaming or sauteing the majority of your veggies - you'll keep your Middle Burner happy, and your body will be able to digest the nutrients more easily.

    1. Include strong foods and spices which move outward and up.

    The extensive qualities of the pungent flavour promote the broad and outward characteristics of the season. Pungent also brings heat to the surface, helping vent it through the pores.

    Consider onions, leeks, radishes, spicy greens, ginger, garlic, pepper and mint.

One caveat: For individuals with too much upward, outward, fiery energy, lots of pungent (even during summer) can make things worse. If that sounds like you, take it easy on the hot sauce!

  1. Stay hydrated (but not how you might think).

When weather’s hot, drink plenty of room-temperature or warm liquids. (In other words, pass on the iced latte.)

Might seem strange, but too much cold weakens digestion. It can also lead to contraction in the body, making you feel hot from the inside. Rely on your thirst and quick having too much water or liquids, particularly with meals.

  1. Lean into herbal support to up-level your seasonal game!

Perhaps more than any other time, the transition between seasons can leave us feeling slightly off kilter. This is natural – our bodies and minds want to drift toward balance but it takes time to adjust.

Chinese herbal formulas are a fantastic, easy way to smooth the transition and support seasonal alignment:  

Choosing a formula that’s right for you will complement dietary and lifestyle attunement, helping you feel your best this summer and beyond!

Make these changes during summer? Or have other seasonal tips? Please share in the comments! 

Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons is Dean of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific Rim College in Victoria, BC. She offers online courses in Chinese Medicine, sobriety, and soulful living at Alchemist Academy. Alchemist Academy features courses for beginners (including on herbs and herbal formulas!) as well as NCCAOM-certified PDA/CEUs for practitioners. If you’re interested in brain shaping, make sure to check out Shifting Currents, Shaping Mind: Neuroplasticity Meets Taoism in Chinese Medicine.

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