We all like to eat good food, and we all understand that certain foods enhance our health. In Chinese medicine, that concept is taken a step further, in that food is viewed as medicine you eat three times a day.
In fact, there is a saying that you should first treat an illness with the proper foods, and if that doesn’t work, only then turn to acupuncture and herbs.
Food therapy is an important and effective part of Chinese medicine, and for good reason—it’s inexpensive and can be practiced at home.
Healing with food is based on a number of principles, including choosing foods that are easily digested and appropriate to your particular health issues. In addition, foods are chosen for their specific actions (purging, drying, nourishing, and so on) and their temperature.
During certain times of the year, the temperature of foods can make a difference in how you feel and your overall health. This is especially true during the hottest weather of the summer.
When you think of the temperature of foods, you might think of how it feels in your mouth: Does it burn your tongue or is it so cold it gives you a headache?
However, in Chinese medicine, foods also have an inherent temperature that when eaten can either warm or cool your body. Foods can be hot, warm, neutral, cool, or cold. Some obviously hot foods are ginger or chilies, which make you feel hot and sometimes even sweat. In general, though, the temperature of a food and its effect is subtle—but very real.
Most of the foods that are harvested in the summer are cool in nature. By eating these summer foods, you are cooling your body and avoiding something called “summerheat.”
Summerheat is considered a pathogen that occurs only in the hot and humid weather and is responsible for that “blah,” queasy, tired feeling you get during the hottest, most humid days of summer.
So what should you eat this summer? Go for some cold foods like these:
- Mung beans
- Citrus fruits
- Dandelion leaves
Cool foods (not quite as cold) include most fruits, spinach, summer squash, lettuce, and most greens, cabbage, bok choy, celery, and mint (make some mint iced tea).
If you start to feel yucky on the hottest days of the year, eat watermelon. It’s cold in nature, packed with water, and perfect for summerheat. Yum!