In Chinese medicine, each season corresponds to a color, an organ system, and a flavor. Since each season brings different weather patterns, temperatures, and amount of sunlight, they predispose us to certain health imbalances. In summer, we have to protect ourselves from overheating, getting sunstroke, getting headaches from dehydration, and possibly fighting irritability from either dehydration or overheating. Sometimes people find that anxiety can flare with the heat of summer. In Chinese medicine anxiety is an emotion more associated with heat and summer, so if it is your Achilles’ heal, so to speak, then you may notice it more present in the summer. Another interesting association with summer heat in East Asian medicine are skin rashes. Rashes, eczema, and hives may also flare-up when someone prone to skin conditions gets overheated during the summer.
To help mitigate the effects of summer heat and to avoid some of the flare-ups of heat associated conditions, it is traditional in Asian cultures to adjust your diet accordingly. Certain foods are tried and true at cooling the body down, such as cucumbers, mung beans, seaweed, melons, and a dash of salt from items like tamari or soy sauce (only use salt if you are not struggling with hypertension).
It is not enough to cool your body down through diet, you also need to protect your body fluids and the development of what we call ‘yin’ in East Asian medicine. Ingredients to protect and develop body fluids and yin are: sesame oil, coconut oil, coconut water, B vitamins, bananas, sweet potatoes, lotus root, seaweeds, and all foods rich in electrolytes. A small list of electrolyte rich foods are as follows: oranges, apricots, pears, cashews, all leafy greens, squash, dried plums, green tea, almonds, peanuts, and brazil nuts. For more on foods rich in electrolytes check out this link: http://www.livestrong.com/article/258990-list-of-foods-high-in-electrolytes/
The last thing to consider when building recipes for the summer is to support the organs associated with the summer, which is the Heart, circulatory system, Small Intestine, Pericardium, and Triple Burner. I have capitalized them since each ‘organ’ refers to a much larger concept in East Asian medicine than just the organ itself. The Triple Burner seems to best relate to the endocrine system and lymphatic system in western physiology. The flavor associated with these organs is bitter and the color is red. So it is important to include some bitter greens, red, bitter vegetables such as radicchio, and red fruits into your summer diet.
Now for the recipes:
Radicchio Salad (created by me, inspired by a salad from Toro Bravo restaurant in Portland, OR)
- 1 head radicchio, shredded
- 1/8 cup shavings of aged parmesan, or asiago
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 T apple cider vinegar
- a drizzle of maple syrup (less than a tsp)
- a dash of pepper
- dash of salt
First make the dressing, or even make it a day ahead of time to allow the garlic to really infuse the dressing. In a small bowl or ramekin combine the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Use a small whisk, and whisk all the ingredients together for about 20-30 seconds to fully combine the dressing. Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary.
Shred or roughly chop the radicchio head. Use a cheese slicer and thinly slice the parmesan into the shredded radicchio. Try to break it up into uneven, roughly one to two inch slices.
Toss the salad with the dressing, either in individual bowls or commit the entire salad to the dressing.
Note: this recipe helps provide electrolytes and with the bitter, red radicchio, it supports the organs associated with summer.
Three Color Noodle Seaweed Salad (recipe from Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen by Yuan Wan, Mika Ono, Warren Sheir)
- 1 cup dried seaweed, such as wakame
- 2 bundles cellophane noodles (mung bean noodles found in the international section at Andy’s Market or Super 1 Foods)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup rice vineager
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari (GF) sauce
- 3 T dark sesame oil
- 2 T sesame seeds
- 1 medium carrot, cut into matchistick sized pieces (or grate it with a cheese grater)
- 2 medium green onions, cut into 1/2 inch lengths, roots and tips discarded
Directions: Cover the seaweed and mung bean noodles with cold water (5-7 cups) for 15 minutes, drain, and press the remaining water out. While these are soaking, bring 5 cups of water to boil. Once the seaweed and noodles are drained, cover them again with the boiling water and let sit 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the garlic, rice vinegar, soy or tamarind sauce, and sesame oil.
Drain the hot water from the seaweed an noodles. Combine the liquid ingredients and the seaweed, noodles, carrots, and green onions. Toss well, and sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish.
Note: This recipe is excellent for skin rashes and helping the body to keep cool. To improve its cooling properties, add thin slices of cucumber to the salad.
Simple Seaweed Salad
This recipe is very similar to the one above, but is more heat clearing due to the larger volume of seaweed. It also helps rid the body of unwanted toxins.
- 1 cup dried seaweed, such as wakame
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 T rice vinegar
- 3T soy sauce or tamari GF sauce
- 2 T dark sesame oil
- 1T toasted sesame seeds, white or black or both
Directions: Cover the seaweed with cold water for 10 minutes, drain and press out, then cover with boiling water for 5 minutes. Combine the garlic, rice vinegar, soy or tamari sauce, and sesame oil in a bowl. Drain the hot water from the seaweed and squeeze out any excess. Combine the liquid ingredients with the seaweed, toss well, and garnish with sesame seeds.
Beverages to keep your body cool:
Peppermint or Spearmint Sun Tea1/4 cup of fresh peppermint or spearmint leaves (or both). For a caffeinated version, you can also use your favorite green tea. Green tea is also considered cooling to the body.
Get a glass pitcher, jar, or large sun tea container and fill with water. I prefer glass containers for anything heat related. Heat can cause plastic containers to leach harmful chemicals into your tea.
Directions: Fill your glass container with water, add the mint leaves, and set out in the sun for a one to four hours. When the water has darkened with the tea leaves, it is ready to drink. For a stronger tea, leave the sun tea container out for a few hours. Once the desired strength is achieved, remove the tea bags/ strain the tea and move the tea to the refrigerator.
Chrysanthemum and Goji Berry Tea
- 2 T chrysanthemum flowers (may have to order online, or you can order them from my office starting Monday, July 15th)
- 2 T goji beries (can get at Andy’s market)
- 2-3 cups water
- 1 tsp honey to taste (optional)
Directions: Combine all flowers and goji berries, and water in a small pot and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat and allow to steep for another 5 minutes. Strain the flowers, or add honey to taste. Or you can bring water to boil and pour over all ingredients to steep, strain, add honey and serve. You can keep reusing the flowers and for one or two more brews.
These two herbs clear heat, are used to protect/improve eyesight, and prevent sore throats. Some people drink it daily to support their eyesight and immune system.