All about Summer
Happy June 21st! Today is the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere. We’re celebrating the longest day of the year today, the day the sun reigns supreme in the sky. This epitomizes the Summer season, a season of brightness, heat, activity and expansiveness. One of Chinese Medicine’s most ancient texts, the Huangdi Neijing, tells us to enjoy and indulge in everything that is outside of our body. Spend time outside, hike, stroll, eat al fresco, socialize, make new friends, go out dancing, and laugh loudly. That’s what Summer is about.
The Heart is the ruler of Summer, and its element is Fire. The nature of Fire is to expand and grow, and so this season is about growing in concentric circles out from yourself. It is through the Heart that we make connections to the world beyond ourselves. Embrace things beyond your boundaries this season. Try new things, explore, get lost and find your way home, enjoy the long days and shorts nights. Connect your inner world with your outer world. Now is the time for living.
Now that I’ve mentioned enjoying the outdoors and being in the sun a couple of times, let me also tell you about the Environmental Working Group’s 2013 Sunscreen Guide. This handy resource will tell you how to protect your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays while also avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals, like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, and nano-particle mineral products, which get absorbed into the body. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to both of these common ingredients. Be sure to get a sunscreen of SPF 30. This is the best level of protection, and higher SPF products haven’t been shown to provide increased protection. Additionally, new research has shown that moisturizers and makeup with sunscreen may not be providing the protection you think, so opt for two separate products.
The emotion of Summer is Joy. Since it is also the season of the Heart, we should take good care of our emotional-selves, too. Find time to laugh and be happy. Laughing with friends on a picnic blanket is medicine this time of year. You can also use this season to take care of your physical heart by reinvigorating your exercise routine. Try something new. Ride your bicycle to work or just take a wheeled meander over the weekend.
Finally, I want to remind you to stay hydrated. Summer is hot. It’s very important to drink plenty of water. Also, favor light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to help you stay cool. Get an awesome water filter at home to get rid of chlorine and carry a BPA-free water bottle. You’ll be doing yourself and the Earth a favor by avoiding bottled water. Check out the Seasonal Health Tips below for tasty ways to stay hydrated, too.
Health Tips for Summer
Watermelon is a great way to stay cool and hydrated in Summer. Interestingly, Watermelon is one of the “herbs” in the Chinese materia medica, and is indicated for hot and also hot-humid days. On humid days, eat into the white margin of the rind a bit for added medicinal benefit. Watermelon is also easily juiced. Remove the pips and throw chunks of watermelon into the blender. You’ll be glad you tried it. Another option is to toss watermelon cubes with arugula and feta for a delicious salad variation. The salt from the feta will give you some much needed electrolytes. The Union Square Greenmarket has a few vendors selling local feta.
The color of Summer is red. Try to add some red foods to your diet, like strawberries, cherries, beets and red chard. Strawberries are in season now and pair well with another in-season red food, rhubarb. Strawberries and rhubarb should be cooked together for pie filling, compote, dessert topper, or for layering into parfaits. Pair with a bit of mint and fresh whipped cream or yogurt from pasture-raised cows or whipped full fat coconut milk for a non-dairy version.
When hot and humid weather leave you feeling like you don’t want to eat, try a cup of cool barley or fenugreek seed tea. Both will help dispel that Dampness, something Chinese medicine sees as blunting the appetite, and reinvigorate your digestive fire. Steering clear of heavy, greasy or fried foods will also help prevent digestive problems in Summer.
Beans are another way to dispel the Dampness that comes with Summer humidity. Most people don’t think of beans as being a Summer food because they’re so hearty, but a cool bean salad or a white bean dip will go well with any Summertime meal.
Finally, don’t forget our old friend Cucumber. Cucumber slices are a delicious, healthful and refreshing way to dress up a glass of water, and stay cool while doing it.
All the best,