The Yin and Yang of Summer Nutrition By Sherra Cunningham Class of 2013
The more heat we experience, the more sweat we produce to balance ourselves. Sweat is beneficial because it is cooling and releases toxins. However nutrients such as minerals, electrolytes and vitamins are also lost with sweat.
The heat of summer makes it the most Yang season of the year. It can be wonderfully invigorating or debilitating and depleting. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the interaction and balance of Yin and Yang is a fundamental concept. Yin Yang interaction is obvious in the summertime, Yang heat produces Yin sweat. The more heat we experience, the more sweat we produce to balance ourselves. Sweat is beneficial because it is cooling and releases toxins. However nutrients such as minerals, electrolytes and vitamins are also lost with sweat.
TCM recognizes that as lovely as summer is, it can also become a pathogen attacking the body. Symptoms of summer heat attack occur when fluids aren’t replenished successfully or there is already a deficiency of body fluids or yin. When the body fluids are damaged, the qi is damaged as well. Profuse sweating and high fever, weakness, thirst, a cough, shortness of breath and wheezing indicate the body is absorbing too much heat and it is beginning to lodge in the interior. If the body continues to overheat the progression can be dangerous. While TCM effectively treats summer heat sickness and dehydration there are many ways you can and should protect yourself in the summertime.
The most important thing to do is to HYDRATE, fill your body with Yin. Fresh, clean, pure water is the key to staying hydrated. Sports drinks, sugary soda, caffeine and alcohol are actually depleting and do not nourish the body fluids properly. Beverages that are icy cold can weaken digestion by contracting the stomach. Ice cold drinks and foods such as ice cream require a significant amount of energy for the body to warm them so they can be digested well. It is best to drink water slightly cool or at room temperature. If you find water boring or difficult to drink try adding slices of lemon, limes, cucumber or melon to enhance the flavor. Herbal teas are a great substitute for drinks containing unhealthy sugars and artificial ingredients. Chrysanthemum flowers cool the liver and help to nourish dry eyes, peppermint leaves and basil calm the mind and taste fantastic as a brewed tea which can be served cool. Experiment with fruits and herbs to find the flavor that excites you into nourishing your body with plenty of water throughout the day.
Food can be very hydrating and we can appreciate that Mother earth has provided us with everything we need to stay nourished in the season. The brightly colored array of summertime produce are especially nourishing to body fluids and yin. Many summer foods contain a high percentage of water as well as vital minerals and vitamins which safeguard against depletion. The best way to approach summertime eating is to consume light, fresh meals of vegetables, fruits, organic tofu, fish, and sprouts such as mung bean and alfalfa. Cook with less salt and more water. Vegetables are best raw, lightly steamed or quick fried in water with a little oil to preserve minerals and natural salts. Fruits are best eaten alone or at least 2 hours before or after a starchy or high protein meal. By allowing fruits to digest on their own valuable enzymes, vitamins and sugars are preserved and absorbed into the body more efficiently.
Foods such as lemon, apple, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple, musk melon, mung bean (in soup) summer squash, zucchini, and cucumber protect against summer heat. For sun/heat stroke, use radish juice, bitter melon soup, or watermelon juice.” (Pitchford, 101). It is best to avoid heavy meals and foods such as meat, pasta, eggs, and excesses of grains, seeds and nuts. (Pitchford, 331), which can slow digestion and bring about a feeling of lethargy. By paying attention to the energy exerted on your daily life by the seasons and your own internal rhythms you can avoid the depleting aspect of the summer season. Staying cool and nourished with Yin energy everyday will give you the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits the Yang energy of summer has to offer.
Mung bean soup:
2 handfuls of mung beans
7 cups of water
Boil for 15 minutes on low heat. Set the soup aside to cool (it can even be refrigerated). Drink this thin soup as required. The beans can also be eaten if soft enough.
Effects of this dish: Clear body heat; prevent heat attack from the hot season. Caution: If you have cold symptoms such as diarrhea and cold hands it is best to avoid this decoction or check with your TCM practitioner. (pingminghealth).
1 teaspoon peppermint
2 teaspoon rosehips
1 tablespoon organic concentrated apple juice
1 pint water
lemon juice to taste
Pour boiling water over the herbs and brew for 5 minutes. Pour concentrated apple juice just before serving and add lemon juice to taste.
Energetics: A cooling drink for hot conditions. It will cool an overheated Stomach or Liver and is ideal for conditions of summer heat. (Leggert, 261).
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts
2 tablespoons torn fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise, slices cut into 1/4-inch-long strips
Use a very sharp knife to cut the zucchini into long, thin, noodle-like strips. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, basil, and oil. Season with salt. Let stand 20 minutes. Toss with zucchini and garnish with basil. (Whole Living, July/August 2011).
Leggett, Daverick: Recipes for Self-Healing.
Pitchford, Paul: Healing with Whole Foods. 3rd Edition.
Whole Living: http://www.wholeliving.com.