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Beat The Summer With What You Eat


Summer is winding up and the heat is still on. In fact around the country we have broken heat records. As the heat increases, so does our frustration and discomfort levels. We can try to stay cool by going to air-conditioned places, swimming and heading for cooler climates. However, did you know that these final dog days of summer could be as close as your kitchen? Can we beat the heat by what we eat?

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is believed that certain foods have a warming and cooling effect on the body. Many of the foods you eat can produce a cooling effect and may actually lower your body temperature thus preventing heat conditions such as heat exhaustion, dehydration, heart conditions (such as palpitations), loss of energy and heat frustration.

During these last summer weeks it is important to eat less food and drink more fluids. Foods that should be decreased and or avoided because they are considered “warm foods” include: red meat, pork, chicken, alcohol, caffeine, heavy salad dressings, milk, butter, heavy oils, sugar, syrup, honey, pecans, nutmeg, salt, cashews, almonds, peanuts, dates, coconut milk, artichokes, sweet potatoes, and mustard greens. In addition, sweet juices and soda should also be avoided.

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Foods that are cooling foods include; white fish and salmon, clams, watercress, apple, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, banana, pear, avocado, lettuce, cucumber and cucumber juice, celery, radish, eggplant, summer squash, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, yogurt, soy or goat milk, sprouts, tofu and tofu products such as tofu cheese, tempeh, bok choy, mug beans, millet, barely, kelp, and spirulina. As always, it is vital that the body gets plenty of water.

Many cooling summer foods can be substituted as well. Though ice cream may be a cool tasty treat, it is considered a warming food. Frozen yogurt, sherbet and tofutti can be a cooling alternative. Though salads are considered a cooling food, it is important not to “drown” the salad in heavy dressings. Yogurt, lemon, spices and light oils can be used as a cool and low fat dressing.

How food is prepared is also essential to the heating and cooling properties of food. Cooling foods can be prepared raw, lightly blanched, simmered, poached, chilled and lightly grilled. It is important to remember that frying, baking and pressure-cooking is not healthy during the summer months.

The home stretch of summer can be frustrating and can create discomfort however, by looking at our food intake and the cooling properties of the foods we eat; we can naturally keep our body cooler.