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Traditional Chinese Medicine – Food Guide For A Healthy Summer

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), humans (and all other living beings) together with the world make up one unified entity and changes in the surroundings bring about changes in the humans. These environmental influences can cause imbalances in the human body and steps can be taken to prevent such imbalances and maintain good health.
One of those steps is to alter the diet and eat according to seasons, thereby maintaining harmony with seasonal changes. As an example, the arrival of summer, a time of rising heat, could also result in a corresponding buildup of heat in the human body.

To re-balance this “imbalance”, foods that cool down the body (known as “cooling foods” or “qu huo” 上火 in Chinese) are popular during the hot summer season while “warming foods” (known as “shang huo” 上火) i.e., foods that increase heat in the body are generally reduced. How much cooling foods should be consumed depends entirely on the individual as some people are more prone to heat buildup while some are more not.
By adapting the diet to environmental changes, it is possible to restore balance between the yin and yang elements in the human body.

Summer is the season of fire, a time of rigorous growth and heat. During this season, cooling foods that dispel internal heat and nourish “yin” are preferred while “warming” foods which raise “yang” are reduced or avoided.

Mung beans:

Mung beans are believed to have very cooling effects on the body according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Mung bean soup or mung bean dessert soup with rock sugar are popular dishes during summer.


Cucumbers are abundantly available during summer and in most Chinese households, cucumbers are a popular food to stay cool during the hot season. A refreshing Chinese style cucumber , or cooked cucumber dishes such as cucumber soup are popular.

Watermelons and Cantaloupes:

Watermelons and cantaloupes are very hydrating and considered to be on the higher end of the “cooling scale” for fruit.

Green tea:

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, green tea is believed to have cooling properties (black tea on the other hand is believed to have warming properties), and a hot cup of green tea (not chilled) is a popular way to stay cool during summer.


Soups are popular as they are hydrating, thereby helping to clear the summer heat. Nourishing winter melon soup for instance is very popular during summer.

Warming Foods To Reduce Or Avoid:

Intake of “warming foods” (foods that contribute to heat in the body) are usually reduced or avoided. The following foods are believed to be “warming”:

Red meat and chicken
Spicy food
Fried food
Fatty foods
Excessively sweet food

Heavy meals are also avoided during the summer months and instead light, frequent meals are preferred.

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