Healthy Eating Under the Sun
The beach, sun bathing, surfing, pool parties, vacations and sun, sun, sun - summer has finally arrived! Thankfully, being a resident of Los Angeles, we are blessed with warm weather almost every season. Unfortunately, this blessing is also a curse. That means we Angelinos need to take extra precautions to protect ourselves all year round, especially during the radiant summer season. Summer may be a time for fun and games, however, it also holds risks such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, skin cancer, food poisoning and even tetanus. Early signs of heat exhaustion can creep up on us if we do not stay well hydrated. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion may include: Light headedness, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, headache, nausea, sometimes vomiting, cool and clammy, pale skin.
While it is extremely important to drink plenty of fluids, to stay in the shade, and reapply sunscreen throughout the day, these measures alone are not enough. The intake of proper nutrients can aid in optimizing your health during these hot summer days. However, how do you know what foods are beneficial in the summer time?
It is well noted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that one should eat in accordance with the seasons. This theory, derived from the ancient healers in China who followed the Laws of Nature by observing the patterns of the season, led them to eat and live accordingly.
Summer is perceived as the time when energy is abundant and the mood is high. This season is about expansion, growth, activity and creativity. Succulent fruits and brightly colored, leafy vegetables that are grown during this time reflect this principle, and so should our daily consumption of foods. Foods that are in season are usually displayed at the local farmer’s market. Organic fruits and vegetables that are on sale at the supermarket is also a good gauge as to what is currently in season.
Another guideline to follow this season is to eat foods according to their energetic qualities. Chinese Nutrition offers different dimensions in food analysis than Western Nutrition. Chinese Nutrition does not focus on counting calories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins and other biochemical natures of food. Rather, it classifies food according to its energetic temperature, taste, ability to moisten and strengthen, calm the mind and reduce accumulations. There are five temperatures of food to consider - hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold. The hot and warm temperatures dispel cold and warm the body. It includes foods such as ginger, garlic, chicken and lamb. The cool and cold properties clear heat, reduce toxins and generate body fluids. Cooling foods include a wide variety of vegetables, fresh fruits and juices. As you can perceive, the types of foods that should be incorporated more into the summer diets are cooling foods. For those salad lovers out there, this is a good time to enjoy a light refreshing summer vegetable or fruit salad. Have you ever noticed during those hot summer days, all you crave is a light and cooling meal? Your body is trying to tell you something!
The following is a list of foods that can help prevent dehydration and alleviate thirst:
- sprouts (alfalfa, mung bean)
- bok choy
- chinese cabbage
- white mushroom
- snow pea
- summer squash, zucchini
- pearl barely
- mung bean
Other helpful tips for the summer season:
- Keep a pitcher of water with slices of lemon and/or cucumber around the house for you and your family to enjoy.
- Blend some watermelon with water to make a delicious watermelon juice drink.
- Make some mung bean soup, keep it in the fridge and eat it as a snack or dessert. (1cup of mung beans with 5 cups water, high heat for 1 hour, then med-low for 2 hours. Add honey according to taste.)
- Make iced or hot tea with chrysanthemum flowers, mint or chamomile.
- When sautéing foods, use high heat for a very short time, and steam or simmer foods as quickly as possible.
- Cook with small amounts of spicy or pungent spices to balance the cooling properties of foods.
- Eat in moderation. Over consumption of any food, especially cooling foods, can lead to food stagnation and phlegm accumulation, which leads to sluggishness and possibly diarrhea.
- Do not leave your food out for too long. The hot weather tends to increase food spoilage.
- Stay away from dairy, heavy, greasy, and fried foods.
Keep in mind that these are general summer nutrition tips for everyone. It is important to acknowledge that you are your own unique individual. Your diet should reflect this principle regardless of the season.
The strength of Chinese therapeutic nutrition focuses on the individual person. The trendy “one size fits all” diets out there do not fit all. Chinese nutrition takes into account what type of person you are and what conditions you might posses. If you tend to run warm and are thirsty all the time, you want to incorporate more cooling fruits and vegetables in your diet. If you are the type who complains about being cold all the time, it is a good idea to add some warming spices or foods like ginger in your summer food preparation. For more information on the type of foods that would best fit your constitution, please consult with your Tao of Wellness practitioner.
Enjoy your fun and healthful summer!