Are you stoked to finally be able to gather with friends and family this summer? You should be. After the summer of 2020 deprived many of us of pool parties, backyard barbecues and trips to the ice cream store, we should have a newfound appreciation for these favorite summer pastimes.
I don’t blame you for celebrating life to the fullest. But before you party with reckless abandon this summer, there’s a danger posed to your health with every summertime gathering. No, I’m not referring to the C-virus; there’s already enough media attention surrounding that … you don’t need to hear it from me, too.
The danger I’m talking about isn’t potentially lethal like the C-virus, but it can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and other unpleasant symptoms better left unspoken at the dinner table. And I’m not talking about the side effects of partying too much. Obviously, chugging beers by the pool under the blazing sun can make you feel like you’re dying.
Worst Foods To Eat In Summer
What I’m talking about is a 5,000 year-old concept from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It’s called Damp Heat. What does an esoteric ancient philosophy from the Orient have to do with grilling it up in your backyard with friends?
You see, eating fatty, greasy food isn’t a recent health problem. Thousands of years ago, ancient Chinese enjoyed finger-lickin’ good pork, sometimes to excess. The ancient Chinese philosophers and doctors of their day noticed that just as the air outside can be hot and sticky, eating and drinking certain things in excess can create heat and dampness in the body.
Not to get too textbook-y here, but the basic theory of Dampness in TCM is that it occurs when there’s too much moisture or water trapped in the body. Anybody who feels like they have swollen extremities (edema) can relate.
Unfortunately, many of the most common foods and drinks people have in the summer can create excess Damp and Heat in the body. The offenders include:
- Dairy (ice cream)
- Grilled meats (barbecue)
- Alcohol (beer)
- Added sugars
- Ice-cold drinks
Am I saying you should never have ice cream? No, I’m not that puritanical of a certified nutrition therapist. But what I am recommending is that the next time you get invited to a backyard gathering, don’t have ice cream and 3 beers and 3 burgers. As always, moderation is the key.
Another thing that Chinese medicine textbooks say to avoid in the summer is lots of raw food like salads. Wait, what? Aren’t salads super healthy and really desirable this time of year? Well, for starters, I sure eat a ton of salads and my digestion is fine.
But the reason you’re not supposed to eat lots of uncooked veggies, according to the theory, is that it requires a lot of energy for your Spleen organ system to process. In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is the organ that’s responsible for transforming nutrients into usable energy. No double pun intended, but this is an instance where I go with my gut and throw theory to the wind.
Best Foods To Eat In Summer
Yes, I’m totally throwing salads on this list, despite what traditional Chinese medicine theory says. But by all means, if you notice that after you have a big salad that your digestion is off, maybe dial it down and have a much smaller one. And start taking digestive enzymes.
Here’s some other foods I love to feast on this time of year:
- Berries (I top them on my salads)
- Avocado and guacamole
- Corn (Buy organic; over 90% of the conventional corn grown in the USA is genetically-modified.)
- String beans
- Spinach and other leafy greens (I drink leafy greens every morning doing this.)
- Other low-starch grains
- Lean fish like mahi-mahi, poke, sashimi
- Eggplant (Want to get your barbecue on, plant-based style? Grilled eggplant is one of my faves.)
- Mango (My go-to healthy dessert; I’m only human so sometimes I top it with whipped cream; whipped coconut cream that is!)
Any seasonal fruit and veggie should be high on your list of foods to eat this time of year. Support small family farms by shopping at local farmer’s markets.
And make sure you don’t overdo it by eating typical summertime unhealthy foods. Not only does barbecued meat have the potential to cause Damp Heat in the body, it also produces Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products in the body. “AGE” is a very appropriate acronym because having lots of AGE products causes premature aging.
To a happy, healthy summer!