In Chinese culture, foods are allocated to a spectrum of the internal temperature or energy of your body – cool (yin), neutral and warm (yang). In the realms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is an ideal yet delicate balance in one’s body, directly affected by the foods we eat. We have already explored warming foods, or yang, which you can read about here, but as the heat continues to rise, we are taking a look into some of the traditional foods to help chase out the heat and balance out your yin. It is believed that if you store too much heat in your body, you will get symptoms including sore throat, restlessness or skin imperfections like pimples; all could indicate the body is hanging on to too much yang energy.
Famed for its antioxidant properties, did you know that green tea is also recommended as a cooling food that helps the body replenish lost potassium after sweating? It can be drunk hot or on ice but as green tea is ‘yin’, avoid if you have a weak or upset stomach as it can increase bloating.
A go-to summer food, watermelons relieve thirst and have a diuretic effect that helps clear the body of unwanted heat. They are also nutrient rich with carotene and vitamin C and can be enjoyed as is or the skin can be boiled to create a soup for maximum cooling effect.
The expression ‘as cool as a cucumber’ also works with TCM beliefs around this summer vegetable. Cucumbers have a high water content (around 96-98%) and are said to quench thirst and increase the appetite – one of the reasons smashed cucumbers are often served as an appetizer in Sichuan cuisine. Cucumbers also have a diuretic property that expels heat from the body and they should be served raw for maximum benefits.
Ideal for eating on hot and sticky days is the Winter Melon. A long time favourite of practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, this gourd can be stir-fried, candied, used as fillings for pastries or be used as part of many soup recipes. In addition to being eaten in a variety of ways, the winter melon is also favoured as it is available in abundance as (despite its name) it grows year round, and has a very long shelf life.
A popular dessert in the city, as well as being a simple sweet to end a meal, mung bean soup is also meant to be an effective way to clear excess heat from the body. But, as always, according to traditional practices, people with lowered immune systems should be careful when eating as it can lead to stomach upsets if your digestive system is not strong.
Ready to increase your yin-take? Try the watermelon salad next time you swing by Motorino.