What to eat and drink this summer

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) food plays a vital role in helping us alter our mood, alleviate symptoms of illnesses and boost different health characteristics. Growing up with a mother who is a TCM practitioner, I have always consumed food in this way and am fascinated by each type of food’s unique characteristics. 


I find it vital to make dietary changes according to the season, especially during the hot months of summer when the heat can cause you to feel lethargic, stressed or irritable. It can cause lack of concentration, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. Furthermore, in TCM conditions associated with excess heat include inflammation, high blood pressure, migraines, skin problems and sinusitis. 


Therefore, we’ve created a guide on what to eat, drink and avoid over the summer season in order to cool the body, clear toxins and calm the blood. 


What to eat and drink 

  • Sweet fruits, such as banana, apple, watermelon and strawberries
  • Bitter herbs and vegetables, including mustard greens, chicory and dandelion leaves
  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach, bok choi, lettuce and kale
  • Raw foods like celery, avocado and cucumber, as well as uncooked vegetables
  • Cold drinks, smoothies, iced lemon water and peppermint and chamomile teas
  • Regular fasting can help detoxification to reduce excess heat

What to avoid

  • Hot foods and drinks
  • Strong spices, such as chilli and dry ginger
  • Red meat 
  • Oily foods
  • Chemical food additives
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Eating to excess - try to eat little and often

I’d like to finish with one of my favourite cooling summer recipes, a smashed cucumber salad. 

Serves 4 people as part of a meal 

Ingredients

4 mini cucumbers or 1 large cucumber
0.5 teaspoon salt, plus an additional pinch
1 teaspoon sugar, plus an additional pinch
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 garlic clove, crushed
Small handful coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds, toasted  


Method

  1. Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Peel off tough skins and remove the two ends. Cut in half lengthwise. 
  2. Smash the cucumber pieces by holding a wide kitchen knife flat on top of the cucumber and smashing down lightly with your other hand. When the cucumber is well crushed, cut it into bite size pieces. 
  3. Place the cucumber in a colander and toss with a pinch of salt and sugar. Leave to drain for 15 to 30 minutes, preferably over a bowl in the fridge. 
  4. To make the dressing, combine the salt, sugar and rice vinegar in a bowl and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Stir in the sesame oil and soy sauce. 
  5. Transfer the cucumbers to a serving bowl and mix with the crushed garlic. Add the dressing and toss well. Serve garnished with the coriander leaves and sesame seeds.