With Summer and its energies in full swing it’s easy to understand why the element of Fire is associated with the season according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). With temperatures coming to a peak very soon, we look to sources for cooling our skin and bodies down. Aside from the obvious ice, air conditioning and fans, there are other ways to topically and internally cool down.
Foods have different warming and cooling properties.
“The warming and cooling properties of a food have less to do with actual temperature, cooking temperature, spiciness or even individual ingredients—and more to do with the food’s balance and contrast among ingredients and the effect of these on the body when the food is ingested. TCM categorizes foods as cold, cooling, neutral, warming and hot.”—Yin-Yang Foods That Make You Feel Better, from bottomlineinc.com
In the Summer, we tend to naturally gravitate to cooling (yin) foods and nature ensures in such a timely way that we have all the local cooling organic fruits and vegetables in abundance. The higher quality of food we consume, the greater the outcome of our health, wellness and happiness.
“The quality of the raw materials is very important when you cook for health and happiness. High quality natural and organic foods are the ideal ingredients for daily use. They are the building blocks for a healthy and happy life.” —Aveline Kushi, author of Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook: Cooking in Harmony with Nature
When we eat in harmony with the season, we're going to feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.
“… just as nature and our levels of activity change constantly, so should our food and methods of preparing it change in accordance with our needs… By being conscious of the changes in nature and in your body, you can adapt to them and realize the highest possible physical health and spirit.” —Michio Kushi, contributor to Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook: Cooking in Harmony with Nature
During Summer, we tend to intuitively know that stews and soups are more suited for our bodies in Fall and Winter. We find ourselves organically gravitating to crisp, fresh, live foods like salads and if we cook a meal, we’re more apt to prepare light sautés rather than fire food at high temperatures. We enjoy so much the high water content, sweeter and juicier produce of Summer that helps to cool our bodies down.
In TCM Five Element Theory, each season and element has a color. As a general rule of thumb, choose the food of the season’s color to eat more in harmony with the season. Here’s a reference key:
Summer/Fire: RED. Eat lots of red foods during Summer. May 6 to July 19
Between Seasons/Earth: YELLOW. Eat plenty of yellow foods during the four interseason periods of the year. January 18 to February 4; April 18 to May 5; July 20 to August 6; October 21 to November 7
Fall/Metal: BLUE/WHITE. Eat a good amount of white foods during Fall. August 7 to October 20
Winter/Water: PURPLE/BLACK. Eat an abundance of black or blue-black foods during Winter. November 8 to January 17
Spring/Wood: GREEN. Eat bunches of green foods during Spring. February 5 to April 17
Here’s our list of cooling foods for Summer courtesy of ChineseMedicineLiving.com. (See chart next column for a visual list.) The foods listed which aren't red in color are cooling foods for Summer nevertheless:
Cantaloupe (member of the cucurbit family)
Watermelon (member of the cucurbit family)
Cucumber (member of the cucurbit family)
Summer squash (member of the cucurbit family)
Wax gourd (member of the cucurbit family)
Bonus Watermelon Cooler Recipe
2 cups watermelon flesh
1 cup young Thai coconut water (C2O canned brand in health food stores is good!)
1/4 cup lime juice
raw blue agave to sweeten and to taste
Run a few seconds in a high speed blender with some ice and enjoy.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published May 8, 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. (Latest update: July 1, 2019)
Photo by Joanna Kosinska at Unsplash
Kushi, Aveline, and Wendy Esko. Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook: Cooking in Harmony with Nature. Avery, 2003.
“Yin-Yang Foods That Make You Feel Better.” Bottom Line Inc, 22 Feb. 2017, https://bottomlineinc.com/health/wellness/yin-yang-foods-that-make-you-feel-better