Diet therapy is an important part of Chinese medicine that uses certain foods to intentionally cause changes in the body. By observing the different effects that foods had on the body, the ancient Chinese classified the different foods into categories by flavor, their ability to heat and cool the body, and their moistening or drying effects. Knowledge of the effects of different foods can be used to keep your body in balance as the seasons change.
Summer is the most Yang of the seasons. During the summer, the days are long and full of sunshine. Summer is ruled by the element fire. The organ associated with fire is the heart. The heart controls consciousness and sleep. When there is too much fire in the body, we feel restlessness. We experience insomnia and dream disturbed sleep. Yang fire energy is strong and rises easily, so the health of the heart can be seen on your face. Signs of too much fire include: red face, red eyes, a bright red tongue with a yellow coating, and acne, along with nose bleeds, constipation, and shortness of breath.
When Yin and Yang in the body are in balance, there will be good health. During hot weather you can add Yin foods to your diet stay cool and hydrated. These foods will clear heat, help eliminate toxins, and generate body fluids.
Eating for the summer
Eat Less: fried foods, onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, chili peppers and lamb. Frozen foods and icy drinks add dampness to the body and need to be enjoyed in moderation. Remember not to leave your food out for too long, as it will spoil faster.
Eat More: cucumber, melon, bitter melon, chrysanthemum tea, bean sprouts, lotus root, barley, and mung beans. And don’t forget to drink enough water!
Mung Bean Dessert Soup (綠豆湯)
- 5 ounces mung beans
- 4 cups water
- 2 ounces rock sugar or brown sugar (do not substitute white sugar, it gives the beans a sour taste)
- Rinse the beans thoroughly
- Soak in water for 4 hours, discard the rinse water
- Put the beans in a pot and add 4 cups water
- Bring to a boil
- Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes (keep an eye on them, they boil over quickly)
- When all of the beans open so you can see the insides, turn off the heat
- Add sugar and stir until the sugar is melted
*When your tongue color returns to normal, you have cleared the extra heat from your body, and shouldn’t eat mung bean soup any more.
Eating with the seasons an important part of living in harmony with nature. Food can be used as medicine to keep your body in balance. Using this knowledge, you can strengthen your body, and lead a long happy life.