by Ellasara Kling
An axiom of Chinese medicine is: Prevention is the best cure. Part of prevention is adapting a healthy lifestyle that includes rest, exercise, and eating appropriately. Now that the warm weather is here, cold drinks and foods are readily available at almost all times. We ingest them without a thought about what messages our bodies are receiving from these icy foods and drinks.
The Stomach’s natural internal temperature is slightly higher than the rest of our body and this hollow organ acts as if it were a soup pot – cauldron. In its way, it “cooks” the food and drink we send to it. It loves warm things that is its nature. But when we give it cold foods especially in excess, it gets the message to “stop” its activity. Cold has the effect of causing constriction. Chinese medicine informs us that it can stop or slow down the flow of Qi in the body. When we drink an icy liquid, eat a raw cold salad (for example) we give our stomach the message to stop its activity, while simultaneously giving it work to do – digest the cold liquid or cold solid food. These are actions that are not consistent with cooperating with our body’s energy systems and can weaken them.
Following Five Element Theory, the relationship between the Spleen/Stomach and the other energy systems is actually quite beautiful and complex. For now, let’s take a small look at what might occur when we weaken our Spleen/Stomach energy system through too much cold. One possible effect is to open the door for the Liver/Gall Bladder to over control the Stomach/Spleen. This over control could result in Qi deficiency in the stomach, which, according to Chinese medicine, would have a variety of digestive symptoms including, a dull pain in the stomach, bloating, cold hands/feet, migraine headaches across the front of the forehead, and weight problems as some possibilities. There are many different patterns that can emerge from weakened Stomach Qi and many different possible causes of this energy deficiency. Too many cold foods/drinks could inhibit your stomach’s function by weakening its energy and causing other subsidiary problems/symptoms, some of which, such as weight gain, may seem unrelated. We always have to go back to what is the message that we are giving our body with what we are eating and what is the effect of that message.
Another effect of the excessive cold food/drink message is that it causes the body to use more of its Qi to overcome the coldness. Consequently, Qi that could be used for building and saving energy is diverted to strengthening the Stomach/Spleen system.
In the recipe section are salads of a different type that are eaten at room temperature and made from cooked vegetables. Give it a try, make up your own combinations, and have fun!
Eat Seasonal, Buy Local, Think Global!
EARLY SUMMER FOODS:
Some Foods that are harmonious with Early Summer include: apricot, beet, bitter melon, black coffee, broccoli, celery, coffee, cucumber, dark, unsweetened chocolate, escarole, ginger, job’s tears, lettuces such as boston, chicory, endive & romaine, lemon balm, loquat, lotus root, lotus seed, mulberries, mung bean, okra, peach, peppermint, persimmons, pumpkin, radishes, red lentils, red peppers, red plums, rhubarb, soy beans, spinach, strawberry, summer squashes, tamarind, teas, tomato, water chestnuts, watermelon, Chinese yam, zucchini, and others.
With all cooked salads, be careful not to overcook the vegetables. You want them to maintain some “bite” and be a bright color. I have purposely left out exact quantities in these salads so you can proportion them to your own tastes.
Most people like broccoli florets, but here’s something to do with the often less popular stalks. Although there are a number of steps in creating this salad, they are not all that time consuming. Cooking the beets takes the longest and can be done the night before.
- Broccoli stalks
- Water chestnut and/or apple
- Toasted walnuts
- Lemon juice
- Walnut oil (or another light weight oil)
- Cook peeled beets thoroughly and let cool.
- Peel the woody exterior (if any) from your broccoli stalks and julienne them into long matchsticks
- Cut carrot into julienned strips as well (I like a proportion of 2xs the amount of broccoli to carrot).
- Steam the broccoli and carrot strips till bright in color and set aside to cool.
- Steam (or sauté the spinach with a little garlic and a little scallion whites) until it wilts and set aside to cool (this is going to be used as a “bed” for the other vegetables).
- Cut the beets into small pieces; cut the water chestnuts and/or apples into small pieces (if using apples put them in lemon water so they do not turn brown while waiting to be “salad”).
- Mix lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper together into a light vinaigrette.
- Place the spinach on your serving platter so that it covers the plate in a thin layer.
- Place the carrot broccoli mixture on the plate so that it forms a well and the “walls” do not cover the spinach completely. Mix the beets and water chestnuts and/or apples together and place them inside the well.
- Sprinkle the toasted walnuts over the salad and add drizzles of your dressing across the platter.
- This salad is served at room temperature.
Squash and Tomato Salad with Sesame Soy Vinaigrette.
- Zucchini, summer squash, green or yellow patty pan squashes
- Tomato (proportionately about ½ the amount of tomato to squash)
- Sesame seeds – toasted
- Lemon juice and/or rice wine vinegar
- Sesame oil
- Soy Sauce
- Worcester sauce
- Tabasco or hot sauce – optional
- Ground pepper
- Cut into quarters lengthwise and then into 1-1/2” wedges for zucchini and summer squash and for patty pan squashes, cut in half horizontally and then into wedges.
- Steam in salted water until just “fork tender” the color will be bright. Set aside to cool.
- While the squashes are cooking, cut your tomato(s) into wedges (about 6-8 for the average tomato).
- Scatter arugula on your serving platter, plate the squashes and tomato wedges over the arugula -–you will have a lovely plate of bright red, green and yellow.
- Sprinkle the sesame seeds lightly over the vegetables.
- Mix together the lemon juice and/or vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, a “hit” of Worcester sauce, ground pepper – a hit of hot sauce is totally optional – and drizzle your dressing over the salad.
- While most people have the ratio of tart to oil down for their own tastes, generally speaking a good proportion is 2xs as much oil to vinegar. Because Sesame oil tends to be a strong flavor, you might want to “cut it” with a light oil such as grapeseed which will not change the flavor but will soften the sesame oil from becoming overwhelming.
This is a very cooling, palate pleasing and different way to serve watermelon on those hot days of summer that are coming up.
- 6 cups 1-1/2” cubes of watermelon – leave a bit of rind on some of the pieces.
- ¼ cup grated fresh ginger
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup diced cilantro leaves (or flat Italian parsley leaves)
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallion whites only
- 1 tsp salt
Mix all the ingredients except the watermelon together. Pour over the watermelon and toss gently so that all the pieces have had some “dressing” on them. You can adjust the proportions of the dressing to your own preference.
Beet soup w/cucumber is very refreshing on a hot summer day as well as easy and quick to make.
- Two cups grated or julienne beets
- 1-1/2 -2 quarts water
- 1 bay leaf
- A pinch sea salt
- Juice of a lime or lemon
- Cucumber slices (cool)
- A few sprigs of dill (disperses qi)
- Cook peeled beets in the water with the bay leaf and salt until the beets are tender. Let the beets cool, grate, dice or julienne. Return to the water.
- Add the lime juice – or lemon if you prefer –
- Decorate with cucumber slices and a sprig of dill
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Green tea is cooling in its nature and therefore appropriate for hot summer days to feel relief from the hot weather. With chrysanthemum blossoms or mint leaves added to your tea, the flavor becomes even more enjoyable and the brew has a deeper cooling effect. Remember to drink your tea warm – never iced!
Health Topic Healthful Eating Guidelines
Eat foods that are natural to the season – Seasonal eating is in tune with the rhythm of Nature where you are and therefore, in harmony with your body’s needs at that time of year. For example, strawberries are not a winter fruit, even if they are imported from South America in January. Although perfectly splendid, strawberries (continuing with this example) are cooling in nature and in the Winter, the body needs warming foods.
As much as possible, eat “local” foods that have grown in your region – they have the energy of your area, are bound to be seasonally appropriate, are picked when ripe and are fresher.
Try to have each of the five tastes throughout your day, if not at each meal – This will help balance your food choices and nourish your entire system, not just a selected part.
Avoid late meals so as to not interfere with liver/gallbladder times of the night (11pm-3am). This will assist in having a good night’s sleep, which is incredibly important for good health.
Avoid heavily processed foods – Processed foods are usually denatured and filled with chemicals. Read labels and if you do not know what the ingredients are, maybe they are not really food.
Avoid cold liquids and foods – the stomach likes warm foods as discussed above in the first paragraph of this article.
Eat primarily cooked foods – This will aid the digestive process and save energy.
Choose a pleasant place to eat – It relaxes the mind and body and thereby aids the digestive process. It makes meal breaks a special part of your day, not just another activity to “get through”.
Treat yourself as if you were a guest in your home – This helps to add to slowing down and enjoying one’s meal and eating in a pleasant environment. Perhaps, especially for people who often eat alone, this idea can add new dimensions to your meals.
Eat slowly – chew your food carefully – As my mother often repeated: “Your stomach doesn’t have teeth.” The stomach likes its food to be well macerated so it can more easily “cook” it.
Eat until 70% full – Among other things, this leaves energy for activities other than digestion. If you find that you are tired or sleepy after meals, this could help reverse that effect.
Eat a quality breakfast, a large lunch, and a light dinner – Most of us are most active in the mornings and afternoons and “wind down” as evening approaches. The meridian system is set up for this kind of cycle, not the reverse of light breakfast and heavy dinner.
Don’t eat and work/ watch TV at the same time. When we eat our attention needs to be on our food, not split to the stress of work or the environment of TV dramas for example.
Avoid nomadic eating – eating your meal(s) while driving or walking. Sit and Savor! No matter how simple your meal, appreciate it.
Listen to your body – learn to follow your intuition when it comes to choosing foods.
Wishing you good health! Remember to smile at all things.
Following the threads of her personal tapestry, Ellasara, a long-time student of Master Nan Lu, weaves her life around the exploration and sharing of self-healing through a variety of modalities, primarily focusing on food, common herbal plants, Qigong Meridian Therapy and Qigong for Women’s Health. For comments, questions, consultations, firstname.lastname@example.org