slideshow-13.2 (1 of 1)01Story and photo by Linda Ming Lee

Hippocrates said “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” It turns out that it is not only what one eats but also when one eats that is one of the most fundamental ways to health and well-being.  

There is joy to be had eating seasonally.  Farmer’s markets are a fantastic way to explore what is harvested weekly. Waiting for and picking up favorite produce is always fun, as is testing a new recipe, but there’s even loftier ideals to consider.

Another level of grace while shopping is based on an ancient Taoist philosophy from over 2000 years ago: Once one starts eating what is in season, the body’s natural intelligence and appetite for the seasonal food increases, losing yearnings for certain foods that are not seasonal. All living things, it turns out, have an endogenous wisdom to be healthy, balanced, strong, vibrant and adaptable to seasonal changes.

The ancient Chinese believed that seasons have a profound effect on health and well-being physically, mentally and spiritually and eating in accordance with the seasons has been a tradition of Oriental culture for thousands of years. This notion of changing how one lives in accordance to the time of year was the root of preventative medicine. How one lives within one season will have a significant affect on the state of health or disease in the seasons to come.

In order for the body to thrive, there must be a harmonious balance between what is going on inside and out.

In the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, the most important ancient text in Chinese medicine as well as a major book of Taoist theory and lifestyle, the development of disease is due to the natural effects of diet, lifestyle, emotions, environment and age. Eating in accordance with the season is one way to restore and maintain balance in the body.

In summer, plants grow fast and people are more energetic. The body can get depleted easily so it needs replenishing more regularly. In this time it is best to cool down and nourish the body with fluids, so juicy fruits and vegetables are excellent choices. Summer heat also tends to dry out, so proper hydration is important. Coconut water is full of electrolytes especially with a teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of salt.

A proper eating regimen during these warmer months should contain more vegetables and fruit. Salads are fine at this time of the year but just know that warm and cooked foods are easier on the digestive system.  As tempting as that passion fruit ice cream is, it should be avoided because excessive amounts of frozen foods can wreak havoc on the spleen and stomach.

In Chinese medicine, flavors help create medicinal reactions. Because of its ability to clear heat, the flavor associated with summer is bitter. Consider adding to your diet, mustard greens, papaya (bitter and sweet), turnip, asparagus, quinoa (bitter and sweet), green tea and yerba mate. Drinking hot tea can cool the body because it promotes sweat. Consider drinking hot green tea; which is both bitter and hot so it doubles the cooling effect on the body.
Keep in mind that these dietary recommendations are general and may not be suitable for you if you have specific dietary needs. Be mindful that raw food, and the sugar from these fruits may not suit your constitution at this time. If you are unsure about the suitability of any of these foods relative to your personal health, consult a health professional.

Linda takes a 3,000 year old system of medicine and applies it to problems of modern living. Her patients appreciate her safe and thorough approach to healing for a wide variety of health issues from chronic pain to sports injuries. Linda received her Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine from the Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences in California. Licensed practitioners of this medicine offer services that often include facial renewal acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, Gua Sha, Chinese herbal formula, herbal medicine, smoking cessation and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

 Introduce Cooling Foods to Summer

Fruit: melon, apple, plum, pear, pineapple, coconut, lemon, strawberry, tangerine, orange, banana and grapefruit

Herbs and spices: mint, cilantro, dill, parsley, basil, lemon balm, peppermint and turmeric

Vegetables: summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, tomato,  watercress, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, spinach, asparagus, bamboo, bok choy, celery, lettuce, snow peas, radish

Grains: wheat, barley, lentil, millet, tofu and sprouted mung beans