What you eat now can prevent the flu later
Our bodies naturally know what to do. Inclined to be outside more – more sun, more contact with our neighbors, more open-air outdoor activity, exercise, networking…life and fun is often at its pinnacle and essentially, it is! Highest, most outward moving, active and bright. The top of the roller coaster, yippee!
We live in artificial environments and often eat non-local, out of season foods, which causes us to be out of balance with the support that Nature would
otherwise provide in the form of seasonal foods and afternoon siestas. Winter and Summer are both times of rest, believe it or not. Looking at it from an agrarian perspective, farmers would rest in the summer when nature is growing the crop. Winter rest was a time of going inside, mending and evaluating. In summer, in the heat of the noon-day sun, we slow down, conserve our energy and seek to balance ourselves with rest, refreshing liquids and lots of laughter.
Each of us can learn about how to balance ourselves with what is going on around us and food is just one important way get and stay in balance and healthy. Adding a little of a cooling food to your meal will begin to balance your digestion and keep you on a path of year-round health. Seeking balance now, helps our immune system support itself as we move through the ‘other’ seasons.
Stay COOL (not cold)!
Part of the answer to balance in summer lies in rest and in avoiding “heating” foods: too much fiery chi can quickly lead to ‘burn-out,’ or over-exhaustion and weaken your lung chi, which can set the stage for flu come Autumn.
When you get overheated, don’t reach for something cold. Look instead for something ‘cool’. Hot and cold are extremes that our bodies find hard to process. Ice in summer is a human invention and tends to shock the system.Cold food requires more energy to digest and over-cooling can weaken our lungs and set us up for colds and influenza when the weather turns cooler in Fall and Winter.
Choosing Cool Foods
Though you might think that anything from the fridge is a good idea, foods have actions on the body that are different. For instance, cold cuts or cold meat actually ‘heat’ the body. Other examples of ‘hot’ foods (foods that ‘heat’ the body) are ginger, alcohol, mango, cherries, cinnamon, leeks, spring onions and anything spicy.Cooling foods are those that are grown in little sunshine, rich in potassium, lean, soft and wet. For instance: yogurt, bananas, zucchini, watermelon, broccoli, cauliflower, some types of fish, and turmeric.
Cool as a Cucumber: Did you know the inner temperature of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air! Cucumbers are 96% water and are a great food for traveling in hot weather because the smooth, green skin keeps the water in like a jug. How refreshing! You will find the flavor of a cucumber in the seeds. One cup of sliced cucumbers has just 16 calories and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. (University of Minnesota)
I was traveling through Reno recently and the heat was more than I expected from my cool Midwestern Spring. I had a headache and decided to try something, I had a few cucumbers on my salad and I put the slices over my temples and my eyes. I slowed down and within 10 minutes my headache was gone. That was wacky and wonderful!
Foods that “heat” the body grow in sunshine, are high in fat, sweet, rich in sodium, hard, dry or spicy. Examples: meat, peppers, cherries, cinnamon, onions, mangoes and more. Eat very little of these in summer. Too much heat will show up as redness in the face, angry outbursts, indigestion, and heartburn. Too much heat will rob your body of its ability to stay in balance and fight off colds in the Fall so “Stay Cool” now. Sugar, well, best to avoid that in any season. Try instead Stevia.
Summertime Eating Tips
Here are a few more food tips from Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine: I recently received this from The Raj, North America’s premier Ayurvedic Health Spa located in Fairfield, Iowa. Named by Town and Country Magazine as “One of the top 5 health spas of the new millennium” it is a beautiful place to truly rejuvenate your body from the inside out.
“The strength of digestion changes with the Seasons. Summer is the season where digestion is the weakest. Therefore, lighter foods should be eaten then. Interestingly enough, nature provides light foods in the summer. …when it is hot outside, our body starts to go into an operational mode of keeping itself cool. And this in turn, turns down the digestive fires…” The Raj, Ayurvedic Spa, Fairfield, Iowa
- Opt for water, but not with meals. Water is nature’s way of neutralizing the body and the heat. Water taken with food will dilute the stomach acids necessary to break down the food well.
- Eat raw vegetables and fruits which contain high degree of water which helps to neutralize and cool the body.
- Yogurt, cucumbers, summer squashes, leafy vegetables, egg white, tofu, soy beans, rice and coffee are some of the cooling to cold foods. Watermelon is a diuretic and can help purge the body of excess fluid. Also, Dandelion is one of my favorite greens–recently while I was in Canada, I needed to replace my bottle of Dandelion Root and Leaves — I laughed at the French name on the bottle: “Pissenlit” which translates as ‘pee the bed.’ I often take dandelion to help cleanse my blood and release excess fluid from my cells. *Remember: this is not medical advice, consult your health care practitioner before taking any herbs or medications as they work together and sometimes against each other.
- Cucumbers are naturally cooling, according to the University of Michigan, the interior of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than its outside, without refrigeration. Make cucumber sandwiches, place cucumber slices in your water or on your face for a fresh, rejuvenated feeling.
- Avoid alcohol, and red meat both of which are heating to the body.
In your home — cool down naturally:
- Get the water moving: introduce a water fountain into your space, make sure it flows always toward the center of the space or home and is always clean and working perfectly.
- Get the air moving: stagnant air or humidity that causes dampness or mold and mildew is toxic to us. Clean your filters on your air conditioning and clean the blades of your fans (unplug them first). [NOTE: Be careful to avoid excess drafts of fans or air conditioning. Moving air is good but too much or too cold can rob you of vital life force.]
- Dive deep into endeavors like napping, reading a book, sitting under a tree in the shade, dangling your feet in a stream, pool or water, reflecting on all that is good in your life.
- Use a cucumber and mint wash on a damp cloth to help cool your skin.
- I recently had a heat rash on my legs and used lavender essential oil and within just minutes it dissipated; I made sure there were not open scratches.
- I also have only had lavender essential oil and nothing else to help counter the effects of over exposure to sun. It really helped take the edge off quickly.
- Laugh, laugh, laugh! It’s good for the heart and helps you digest even the most troubling things that come up!
In Feng Shui, everything matters and life is a continuum of flowing energy, moving either up or moving down. Knowing this wisdom enables us to use the benefits of one season to increase the benefits of the next for a simple and elegant life. The benefits of Summer are rest, relaxation, warmth, friendship and the endless green that is soothing to our souls. Put these simple joys back into your Summer and enjoy!