Now that we are well into the summer months, it’s a great time to assess whether we are eating the best foods for the season to keep us balanced and happy during this hot and dry period of the year. Even though supermarkets today carry almost any food we can think of, many were not in nature’s intent to be consumed during the summer. Knowing which foods and lifestyle choices to consider at this time will keep our bodies and minds in line with the earth’s elements, providing the best opportunity for year round health and wellness.
While spring is a time of renewal and winter is a time of looking inward, summer is a time for looking outward and expanding. Summer is the season of growth and maturation and a time when the “yang” principle of Chinese medicine is fully expressed. Sun itself is “yang”, giving us energy, while also inspiring outward action. This is usually the time when we want to be outdoors partaking in activities in nature, swimming, water sports, hiking, etc. The days are long and full of vibrant color, sounds and activity. Sweating is a natural and important function of the body for releasing heat and allowing us to take in the sun and all of its glory.
Also symbolic of summer is the element of fire. Fire is the energy of creativity, intuition and movement. It is also the energy of the heart and small intestine, making the health of these organs of primary importance during this season when they are quite active. Bitter foods, such as green leafy vegetables, are particularly strengthening for these organs. It’s also important to consume less heavy foods such as animal products and excessive amounts of nuts, seeds, grains and beans, all of which can cause sluggishness. Too much meat, dairy products, breads and sugar can be detrimental for proper digestion and assimilation of the nutrients your body needs at this time.
As one would naturally presume, cooling foods such as fruits and vegetables are a key part of the diet during the summer months. With the many different options, colors and varieties available at this time, it’s not difficult to get the vitamins and minerals the body needs. Raw fruits and vegetables such as fresh fruit (especially sweet varieties), sprouts, big salads and juices are all ideal choices. Make sure to select organic, which is especially important when consuming raw foods in order to avoid toxins. Whole grains, although not to be consumed in excess, can provide long periods of energy to match the late sunlight hours of the day. Some of the better choices include wheat, barley and oats.
Contrary to what one might think, iced drinks and ice cream can contract the stomach and slow digestion. Peppers and even some of the spicy foods are ok in moderation as they help the body to sweat, which keeps it cool. The same goes for warm teas and showers. Outdoor activity and cardiovascular forms of exercise are important at this time for releasing heat and balancing one’s energy. This is not a time to hide indoors or overeat if one wishes to maintain optimal health.
The last part of summer or that month or two when the heat seems to linger into the fall months is what’s considered late summer, a very short season. This is considered a time of preparation for the year to come, when the yang is turning to yin. The element associated with this period is “earth” which signifies the need for a grounded experience as you move into autumn and later winter. This is an ideal time to begin eating just a little bit more heavier foods such as healthy fats, more whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and even some animal products for those who aren’t vegetarians. These foods will help you begin the process of turning inward, away from expansiveness, and preparing for the colder months ahead. In addition to strength training fitness exercises, this is also an ideal time to recommit to centering practices such as breathing and meditation exercises.
The 3-Season Diet by John Douillard
Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson M. Haas
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
Published On: August 10, 2011