Summer is officially here, and that seasonal shift is felt by us all. As the environment affects the well-being of a plant, it too, affects our well-being. We are influenced by changes in climate, and living in harmony with those changes is the key to maintaining our longevity.

As the warmest months make their presence known, our bodies adapt and gravitate towards that which best nourishes it. Some people are not tuned in to these subtle changes and personal preferences, so being able to guide your clients toward that which benefits them the most will be greatly appreciated.

Logic and experience tell us that the heat of the summer sun will quickly wilt a flower. Shade and water will maintain it, and can possibly even revitalize it. Imagine yourself as that flower, and it will be clear how you can protect yourself from the brutal elements.

Practitioners of Oriental Medicine are trained to advise their clients on eating habits for each season. Courtesy of Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, below are some of the summer guidelines that you can share with your clients:

  1. Cook lightly. When sautéing, use high heat for a very short time. Steam or simmer foods quickly if possible. This prevents the loss of nutrients that can occur with longer cooking times.
  2. Add a little spicy, pungent or fiery flavor to foods. At first, these spices increase warmth, but ultimately they bring body heat out to the surface to be dispersed. With heat on the surface, one’s body mirrors the summer climate and therefore will be less affected by it.
    • Hot peppers
    • Fresh Ginger
  1. Use little salt and more water. Excessive salt causes water retention which contributes to feelings of puffiness, sluggishness, heaviness and fatigue. More water will keep you well-hydrated for optimal health in the summer heat.
  2. Take advantage of the abundant variety of produce in season. Minerals and oils are sweated out of the body, and their loss can cause weakness if they are not replaced by a varied diet.
  3. Drink hot liquids and take warm showers to induce sudden sweating and cool the body.
  4. Cooling foods that are ideal to eat in the summertime are
    • Salads
    • Sprouts (especially mung, soy and alfalfa)
    • Fruit (especially apples, watermelon, lemons, and limes)
    • Cucumber
    • Tofu
    • Flower and leaf teas (especially chrysanthemum, mint and chamomile)
  1. Limit very cold foods. While cool foods can balance summertime heat, very cold foods can weaken the digestive system (ice cream and iced drinks). Extremely cold items can contract the stomach and actually stop digestion.
  2. Avoid heavy foods that can cause sluggishness such as
    • Meat
    • Eggs
    • Fatty foods

Following our body’s natural preferences will usually steer us in the right nutritional direction. During the hot months of summer, many people choose to eat smaller and lighter meals – simply because it makes them feel better. Unfortunately, a lot of other factors can play into the food that we eat, such as emotional connections with food or a disconnection from our bodily wisdom. According to the principles of Oriental medicine, eating in harmony with the seasons ensures harmony within ourselves.