Hippocrates isn’t the only one to believe that food can be thy medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine also recognizes the energetics and healing properties of food.
Eating according to the season and five phases of Traditional Chinese medicine is a powerful and easy way to keep you healthy and target specific health conditions. Learn more about how summer is the season of the heart and which 5 super foods you should add to your diet to help heal your heart this season.
Seasonal Changes & the Five Phases in Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the change of seasons follows a cycle of five phases of energy and matter. Each season corresponds with one of the five phases (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) with the season of late summer also being the transitional phase between each of our four seasons.
Each of these five phases aligns with a specific organ system in the body and influences the health of that organ system.
Summer Season & The Fire Phase
Summer is the season of the heart and corresponds with the Fire phase in Traditional Chinese medicine. At this time of year, we should eat foods that support and strengthen our heart as well as our emotional health.
The heart energy system in Traditional Chinese medicine serves many functions including:
- Circulating blood
- Controlling blood vessels
- Balancing the mind and emotions
- Controlling sweat
When our heart energy is out of balance, we may experience anxiety or depression, palpitations, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, poor memory, cold hands, pale complexion, spontaneous sweating, night sweats, a bitter taste or mental restlessness.
You can help prevent and treat these symptoms by adding certain summer super foods into your diet. Check out these top 5 summer super foods to eat this season to heal your heart.
1. Strawberries: Red, Summer Super Foods to Protect Your Blood Vessels
The color of the Fire phase and summer season is red. This season offers us a variety of fruit and vegetables that are red. Red tomatoes, red peppers, radishes, beets, raspberries and strawberries are all red summer super foods.
Strawberries are abundant this time of year and the perfect heart healthy food because they are full of antioxidants. Antioxidants are heart healthy because they repair the damage of oxidation and stress.
Scientific studies have also shown improvements in cardiovascular health markers (including LDL oxidation) when these berries are eaten due to their high amounts of flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins.
2. Cucumbers: Summer Super Food to Beat the Heat
In summer, it can get HOT! We can feel the heat externally on those 90+ degree days, but our internal bodies can also develop pathological heat conditions such as heart fire. Heart fire in Traditional Chinese medicine can manifest as mental restlessness or mania, insomnia and dream disturbed sleep, thirst and bitter taste.
Eating foods that are cold energetically can help keep us physically cool and can cool any internal fire conditions. Cucumbers are a cold energetic food that you can eat as a delicious snack with a slight shake of sea salt or cut them up with tomatoes and onions for a refreshing salad mixed with olive oil and vinegar to cool you down on a hot day.
With most things in Traditional Chinese medicine, however, we have to remember to stay in balance. Eating too many cold and raw foods can damage our digestive health and cause gas, bloating, stomach upset or loose bowel movements. Enjoy the abundance of fresh, raw foods fruits and vegetables to beat the heat this summer but also balance them with foods that are lightly cooked.
3. Watermelon: Summer Super Food to Replenish Fluids
Because sweating is a natural part of summer, it’s very important to replenish fluids this time of year. Heart fire conditions can also burn up our body fluids due to the excess heat in the body. Water is a must for hydration but juicy fruits and vegetables can replenish fluids as well.
Watermelon is one of the best hydrating summer super foods. Simply pick up a slice and eat it or try it in a salad mixed with cucumber, feta cheese crumbles and a splash of balsamic vinegar or make a watermelon salsa.
4. Swiss Chard: Summer Super Food to Calm Anxiety
The heart is the emperor of the body and ruler of all emotions. Although each organ system corresponds to and controls a specific emotion, it is the heart that harmonizes all of our emotions and seeks to maintain our mental and emotional stability.
The heart energy system and Fire phase also reflects the emotion of joy. Any imbalance in our heart energy can throw our emotions out of alignment. Feelings of anxiety, mental taxation or overexcitement, or even excessive joy as mania indicate a heart imbalance.
Swiss Chard is a summer super food for the heart due to its high amounts of magnesium. Magnesium is a super supplement that can heal symptoms related to a heart blood deficiency condition.
Someone with heart blood deficiency may experience anxiety, palpitations and insomnia with difficulty falling asleep. Magnesium can help treat all three of these symptoms. It calms the mind to ease anxiety and relaxes the heart muscle to ease palpitations. Magnesium can also help you to fall asleep faster and help you sleep through the night.
5. Kale: A Bitter Summer Super Food
Each season in Traditional Chinese medicine also corresponds with a particular flavor. In summer during the Fire phase, the flavor of the season is bitter.
Bitter foods have a strong descending action in the body. In this regard, eating bitter foods can help treat mental health conditions of the heart. This includes anxiety, but especially mania or overexcitement where there is too much energy disturbing the head and mind.
It may not be widely known for its bitter flavor, but kale is a great vegetable to eat this time of year. Try roasting it to make kale chips or toss it with a light vinaigrette to change up your usual salad greens.