Eating Right for your Type All Year Round
Yinong Chong, July 2008
Summer is hot and humid, and the summer heat makes things grow and move. Qi and blood become more active in the summer than in any other season. Summer is a great time to practice and train hard, but it can be a challenge to stay cool. One way to stay cool is to eat cool. We don’t mean eating cold foods, but eating cool from a Chinese medicine perspective.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) categorizes foods into five types: Hot, Warm, Neutral, Cool, and Cold. This does not refer to whether the foods are served cold or warm in temperature, but rather the inherit properties of the foods themselves. For instance, rice and sweet potato are considered neutral, black and sweet rice are warm, while millet and wheat are cool. Similarly, pork and most fish are neutral, beef and mutton are warm, but duck and rabbit are cool. Crab meat is very cold.
TCM also recognizes different people having different energy patterns: some mostly Yin (cold and cool) while others mostly Yang (warm and hot). Your body’s energy pattern may change with seasons or climates, or your health conditions.
The interaction of the climates, seasons, and body types make choosing food ones of the most important aspects of the Chinese life nurturing practices associated with Qigong and TCM. You don’t have to be a TCm expert to go grocery shopping if you follow these three simple dietary principles from TCM:
If you’re hot, eat cool; if you’re cool, eat hot
Some people have very cold energy deep inside, and they are also very deficient in Qi and blood. For this group of people, they should frequently eat warm foods regardless of the season. Foods that can generate heat and warm energy include beef, mutton, onion, wine, and ginger.
If people always feel warm or hot, like to drink a lot of water, they typically have plenty of Yang energy, and therefore can select more cool food to balance the Yang in their body.
In the summer, eat cool; in the winter, eat hot.
Lots of fruits and vegetables grown in the summer time are mostly cooling type, exactly what the body needs to get rid of the heat. Examples include strawberry, watermelon, tomato, cucumber, lotus roots, etc, and you can eat more “cool” or “cold” food in the summer because the outside temperature is high. In the winter, however, we should eat more warm food to help the body resist the cold and reserve the body heat.
It is worth pointing out that with the “green house” technology, we can now get “summer” food in the winter or vice verse. So pay special attention to your body’s reaction if you eat this kind of “anti-seasonal” foods. For instance, if a piece of watermelon or strawberries in the winter causes stomachache or diarrhea, you probably should listen to your body and replace the cold foods with more warm foods.
Eat more local foods
Generally speaking, tropical areas produce more “cooling” foods, such as banana, sugar cane, watermelon, wheat, barley, and oats. Colder areas usually produce more warm or neutral foods, such as onion, potato, soybean, and garlic etc. This is an example of the Chinese concept that the land provides what people need in that particular region. Eating more local foods could help to get more of what your body needs from where you live.