The Great Yang season is upon us. Yang energy is bright, fiery, and hot like the midday sun. Yang is the counterbalance to Yin. Yin is expressed in the cooling, calming energies of life. Together, Yin & Yang, like night & day, represent the dynamic balance between the opposing, but complementary forces that make up all of existence. These forces are ceaselessly intermingling in a sacred dance of life’s cycles. The cycle of the seasons is a perfect demonstration of this balance in motion, and as we turn the corner into summer, we reach a pinnacle in the cycle, the summer solstice. Summer is known as the “Great Yang” season because of this peak in the yang energy: the sun (ultimate yang energy) is closest to the earth and the day (yang time) is the longest at this time of year.
We, as humans, are part of nature, so these forces exist in us just as in our environment. With each changing season, Chinese Medicine offers lifestyle guidance to tune our own energy cycles to the world around us so that we can live in health and harmony.
One of the branches of this ancient medicine and health philosophy is dietetics. There are a number of simple things to consider when adjusting your diet to the energy of the Great Yang season.
- In Season Fruits/Veggies/Herbs:
Time to hit the farmer’s market! It’s vital to interact with your natural environment through the food it offers. Summer is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that help to keep you hydrated, and disperse your qi to match the light, ascending energy of yang. Nature knows best so pay attention to what is growing well in your area as it may be exactly what your body needs to be more aligned with the energy of the season.
- Heart and Small Intestine Considerations:
The heart and small intestine are the paired yin and yang organs associated with summertime and the element of fire. The heart houses the mind and its job is to perfuse the body with blood while the small intestine’s job is to sort and process the food received from the stomach. Blood tonifying foods like dark leafy greens and lean meat are important to ensure a blood-rich safe haven for the mind to rest, as well as enough blood to carry that energy of consciousness throughout the body. Red foods like cherries, strawberries, goji berries, and tomatoes support the fire element and it’s no coincidence that these foods are rich in antioxidants credited with cardiovascular benefits. Also, have a heart when considering the important sorting job of the small intestine. We can alleviate stress on this organ by not overloading it with nutrient-deficient, over-processed food. Keep it fresh!
- Timing is Everything:
11am-1pm is heart time according to the 24-hour cycle of energies in our bodies. Lunchtime, the time when the energy is strongest in the heart meridian is also a time when our digestive fire is strong, so enjoy a mid-day meal! 1 pm-3 pm is small intestine time, this is the time to sort and absorb food, rest, and allow your body to process the nutrients.
- Presentation of food:
Be mindful of aesthetics when serving yourself or others food in all seasons, but especially in summer, as beauty pleases the heart. What feeling does your food stimulate before you even eat it? Consider garnishing your dishes with a little extra love like a sprinkle of sesame seeds or a fresh edible flower.
While a soup may seem like more winter-appropriate, sipping a warm soup can help the body stay hydrated and also induce gentle perspiration to keep the body cool. You can add slightly cooling (in nature, not temperature) foods and herbs to the soup to balance the warm temperature. Here’s a simple summer soup to assist the heart in blood circulation and qi dispersion while helping to eliminate excess heat.
6 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup beets
1 cup carrots
1 cup corn
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
½ oz Carthamus flowers (commonly known as safflower, this is an herb for blood circulation in Chinese Medicine)
Cut the beets and carrots into cubes and stew in the stock for 15 minutes. Cut the corn off the cob and palace the carthamus flowers in a sachet. Add the corn, carthamus sachet and sesame oil and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.