I’m not one for hot summer days or bright sunlight. Cower from them, actually.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, my condition even has a name: “Heat Intolerance” (compounded by “Summer Heat”).
Yeah, it’s a thing. And I’ve got a bad case (except in yoga class, which I prefer at a balmy 104 degrees).
This is not a new problem for me, but it got way worse a couple years ago, when I found myself living in south Florida. With full-blown Heat Intolerance. In full-on, year-round Summer Heat.
I’m still, um, adjusting…and still daydreaming of snowy winters in northwest Canada.
Did I mention I wear mostly black and drive a black car? Probably not helping.
These past weeks have been particularly intense, because as outside temperatures rise, our home AC has been unable to keep up. Lately, our indoor temperature has hovered around 80 most evenings, making me, well, highly intolerant.
But, as the world heats up around us, one thing we can control is what we’re eating and drinking. This won’t take Summer Heat and Heat Intolerance away…but it can make them less intense.
In Chinese Medicine, the “optimal” way of eating varies, depending on a host of factors. Many of these pertain to the particular individual—age, lifestyle, health conditions and “constitutional” patterns, for instance.
Another key factor is time of year—and seasonal influences. In other words, the “best” way of eating in winter is not the “best” way of eating in summer.
During the colder months, for example, eating cold, raw food is not the best idea. Far wiser to stick to deeply warming foods, such soups and stews cooked at a low temperature for a long time. Lamb, beef and root vegetables are especially nice choices in wintertime.
Meanwhile, hot summer months can be an okay occasion for introducing more fresh, raw fruits and veggies (if your digestion is good) or lightly sautéed or steamed ones (if your digestion is weaker).
Now, just to be clear, too much cold, raw food can impair digestion and metabolism any time of year, so it’s good to keep it to a minimum—particularly if you’re struggling with digestive problems or weight gain.
Still, adding more fresh fruit and veggies during summertime is, for most people, totally cool.
We’ve been doing that—along with a few other things—to adjust to the seasons (and temper my crazy-making Heat Intolerance).
Here’s a short list of our eating adjustments during these hot summer days:
1. More fresh, raw or lightly sautéed veggies…and less roasted root veggies
Don’t get me wrong, roasted beets and carrots remain a weekly staple. They’re just taking up a little less space on our plates as the temperature rises outside and in. (I mentioned our cranky air conditioner, right? Well, using the oven makes the kitchen about 85 degrees and makes my face redder than our beloved roasted beets.)
2. Lots and lots of green soups…and less slow-cooker soups and stews
These are my version of a cooked green smoothie. They’re way easier on the digestion and way richer in “bioavailable” nutrients compared to cold, raw, slushy fruit-and-veggie drinks.
We continue to put our slow-cooker to use of course…just slightly less often. But an occasional chicken soup or bone broth is still a good idea—offers a deeply healing, deeply nourishing counter-balance to all of the cooling, summery, veggie stuff.
This is a typical “whatever-we-have-on-hand” soup, featuring green apple, fennel, cilantro, ginger and onions:
3. More fish and chicken….and less red meat and lamb
We love, love, love our burgers and steak…but too much can feel pretty warming this time of year.
We’re doing around two burger/steak nights a week lately, and going with fish or chicken other evenings.
This recent meal featured fresh Copper River sockeye salmon (and crispy skin) cooked in ghee, a dollop of cooked puréed greens and such (leftover kale, fennel, green apple, shallot, ginger “soup”), a few spoonfuls of papaya, organic heirloom tomatoes, red onion, jalapenos, wasabi and lemon:
4. More primal-vegetarian meals
Did you know primal-paleo meals can also be vegetarian? My lunches these days include eggs, Greek yoghurt, veggies and sometimes fruit or nuts. For the most part, they are meat-free—on rare occasions, dinner is too.
This is very individual, and Randy has greater need than me for meat at most meals. Takes a little self-experimentation to determine what’s best for you (we can help with that at Alchemist Eating too).
This was an especially light, primal-vegetarian dinner for us (felt very needed one hot, steamy evening), featuring spaghetti squash with sun dried tomatoes, roasted pine nuts, spinach, shallots and garlic; leftover green “soup” made of kale, collards, onion, ginger and cumin; fresh veggies; and a scoop of full-fat Fage Greek yoghurt:
5. More matcha, mate and green tea…and way, way, way less coffee
I’ve had one coffee this entire month—marking a huge shift from my usual two-a-day habit.
Coffee’s not “bad,” but it is very heating, very stimulating to the nervous system and very taxing on the adrenals. I’ve been feeling a bit adverse to it as the days get warmer and busier. (More on the coffee question here.)
Lately, my mornings look like this, featuring “bulletproof matcha” with a scoop of coconut milk and capful of MCT oil:
6. More generally, we’re incorporating many of the same guidelines we use as part of our balanced cleansing protocol.
This “East-West detox” prescription combines primal eating parameters and Chinese Medicine food therapy to help clear and drain “excess”…while at the same time nourishing the digestive system and restoring balance in body-mind.
It’s good for Morning After Pizza situations (or other over-indulgence disasters) as well as for crafting a balanced summer meal plan and countering crazy-making heat. (More on East-West detox here.)
7. For further inspiration, we’re seeking out summery meals from our favorite paleo blogs. We’ll be trying these ones in the weeks ahead: