As the weather warms, I’m finding daily respite in glacier-fed Kootenay Lake. Swimming on my back, staring up at clouds, mountains, sky…I feel Home.
This summer season finds us in another country and a whole new place. One full of transformation and fruition.
The shift in seasons also means adjusting how we eat—letting go of warmer fare and keeping things light, cool, simple.
Wild fish, grass-fed burgers and abundant fresh, local veggies take centerstage.
Green soups also play a staring role, as does organic, full-fat dairy.
In Chinese Medicine, 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’s this mean during summer?
Well, for starters, summer’s all about expansion.
It’s a time for growth, creativity and outward activity.
A time to be joyful, easygoing and free of grudges.
These months mark the pinnacle and maturity of the all that was planted and sprouting before.
They are a time of free flow between inner self and outside world.
During summer, the Chinese classics counsel us to rise early and retire late, staying physically active and engaged with our surrounds. They also deem summer the best time for more sex. (Yes—the classics really say that.)
Emotionally and physically, these months are a time for manifesting your most expansive, exuberant self.
What’s this have to do with food?
A lot, actually.
In Chinese Medicine, we don’t separate food and eating from the rest of life…or from wider patterns of living and being.
What’s on our plate in summer is part of the bigger picture of seasonal attunement. This attunement—in all aspects—supports health and vitality throughout the year.
In summer, as in every season, individual factors come into play too. Put differently, eating seasonally is just one variable to consider when crafting your optimal diet. (When I work with clients one-on-one, I take many variables, including personal goals, into account.)
That said, 4 sage guidelines for summertime go this way. . .
(If you’ve been following this series, you’ll notice some overlap with springtime guidelines. Here, those are even more important, since there’ll likely be less back and forth between warm and cool conditions.)
1. Summer is a time to eat less, light and simply.
Compared to other times of year, portions should be smaller and food lighter in nature, reflecting the yang energy of the season.
Avoid the heavy, dense foods of winter, instead choosing simple proteins surrounded by plenty of veggies. Greens are an especially good choice, as are cucumbers and fennel.
Also keep food combinations and preparation simple, easy, summery.
2. Cook foods for shorter duration at higher temperatures.
Shorter cooking at higher temperatures makes foods more cooling.
By cooling here, I’m not talking about whether foods are hot or cold to the touch. Rather, I’m looking at their intrinsic thermal nature and heating or cooling influence on the body after eating them. As the weather gets warmer, more cooling foods are called for.
Summer’s also an okay time to incorporate more raw foods for some people (though NOT anyone with digestive weakness, since raw foods are much harder to digest). In general, I recommend at least lightly steaming or sautéing the majority of your veggies. Nutrients are more bioavailable that way.
3. Add pungent foods and spices, which move outward to the exterior and upward to the head.
Pungent flavor’s expanding, rising qualities support the expansive, outward nature of the season. Pungent also brings heat to the surface, helping vent it through the pores.
This in mind, 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 familiar, take it easy on the hot sauce.
4. 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 drinks.)
Might seem strange, but too much cold weakens digestion. It can also cause contraction in the body, trapping heat inside.
You want to trust your thirst and avoid drinking too much liquid. More on that (from a biomedical perspective) here.
Making these changes this summer? Or have other seasonal tips? Please share in the comments!