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Beat summer heat with TCM-based healthy diet

So it's hot and humid and you're sweating like a dog. Don't despair! It may seem almost unbearable to step outside the confines of your own home but there are ways to help your body cool down. All you have to do is listen to a voice from thousands of years ago…

The Chinese have been refining the art of balancing what you eat with what your body needs for millennia.

Indeed, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM for short), there's a nuanced system of helping your body adjust to China's stifling temperatures. And it's all to do with understanding the balance of foods you consume: understanding which ones cool you down and which ones most definitely don't.

Summertime saviors

While spicy, hot and salty foods are considered yang, which are best for warming the body, cooling, sweet and bitter foods are yin – and it's these that you want to be eating under the sun. Generally speaking, raw or watery foods makes for ideal fare during the scorching summer since they are said to clear heat, calm and cool the blood, as well as quench thirst. 

What's more, foods that are cool by nature, TCM suggests, can help to alleviate a whole host of symptoms, including hot skin, perspiration, constipation, pungent or hot wind and stools, anxiety, red eyes, a red face, headaches, ulcers or cold sores around the mouth, heartburn and dark or yellow urine.

Watery fruit & melons

Due to their high moisture content and plentiful vitamins and minerals, foods like watermelon, bitter melon, winter melon, eggplant, pear and persimmon are also great at counteracting bodily heat. And since it's summer, look to enjoy them only lightly cooked – steamed, say – or, even better, raw.

Neutral veggies & greens

The mild flavor of certain Chinese veggies – including chrysanthemum, spinach and celery, along with other roots and sprouts such as bamboo shoots and lotus roots – can also counterbalance heat. But beware of preparing them with salt or spice – too much of either will nullify their cooling effects. Instead, prepare simply, steaming or boiling.

Lighter proteins & carbs

Meat is often rich and hard to digest – asking your body to do too much work can only increase internal heat. Instead, opt for lighter alternatives such as millet, mung bean, tofu, crab and seaweed.

Light beverages

It's just common sense that moist and quenching drinks are vital for hydration. But eschew that latte or breakfast cuppa and choose green, mint, aloe or herbal teas instead. Fancy a little sweetness? As a natural sweetener, honey is the smart option since it's also naturally moist and is an aid to digestion.


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