Diet Recommendations for the Summer Season

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states that one should eat in accordance with the seasons, each of which has its own properties and energies.

Summer is a time of expansion, growth, activity, creativity and abundance of energy. It is also a time when fluid depletion and excessive body heat can be an issue. Juicy, brightly colored fruits and vegetables are especially good food choices in the summer. It is ideal to eat these foods uncooked or lightly steamed.

Summer tends to rob our bodies of moisture, and for this reason, summer foods are rich in water content. Dehydration is implicated in a startling number of health issues and disease. Signs of dehydration include headache, dizziness, irritability and fatigue. Be on the look out for these symptoms and hydrate with water if any of them arise. As a rule, we should drink 8 – 10 glasses of water a day. If you are especially active in the summer or live in a hot climate, you will want to drink as much as 12 – 14 glasses a day.

As much as your body may want it, avoid excessive amounts of ice, ice cream, sorbet and other frozen foods. While they may give you a temporary feeling of relief, they can wreak havoc on your spleen and stomach. Enjoy modest amounts of frozen drinks or foods, but don't overdo it.

Because of the external heat of the summer, it is important to eat foods that have cooling properties (see the list below) while avoiding foods that are warming. Warming foods include most meats, vegetables that are in the red range of the color spectrum, heavy oily foods, and foods that are spicy (pepper, cinnamon, ginger, clove, garlic, chives and leeks to name a few). Fish and seafood are cooling, as is yogurt, though other dairy products tend to increase heat in the body.

Cooling foods clear and reduce heat, expel toxins and increase body fluids. Foods that are sour and salty help to balance the body in the summer. Avoid fried foods and large meals. It is best in the summer to eat smaller amounts of food more often than three square meals a day.

Here is a partial list of cooling foods for the summer.

Summer Fruits

  • Banana
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew melon
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Pear
  • Persimmon
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry
  • Tangerine
  • Watermelon

Summer Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Mung beans
  • Onions
  • Radish
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Watercress
  • White mushroom
  • Zucchini

Summer Spices

  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Lemon balm
  • Marjoram
  • Peppermint
  • Turmeric
  • White Peppercorn

Summer Grains and Legumes

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Lentil
  • Millet
  • Tofu

A final thought: Keep in mind that these dietary recommendations are general. You may have specific dietary needs or limitations that run contrary to the summer diet. Some people, for example, may have difficulty digesting raw foods; others may have a health issue that requres them to eat little or no fruit sugar. If you are uncertain about the suitability of any of these foods relative to your personal health, contact a health professional.

Bobbie Rene Parke,
M.Ac.O.M., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

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