5 Tips to Stay Healthy in Late Summer
Timeless principles to find your balance this season
By Madalina Hubert
Traditional culture throughout the ages has seen people strive to harmonize with nature and the seasons. This concept is still very much alive with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which looks at people as part of an integrated whole with the earth and the universe. When you align with these principles, you can hope to stay healthy and improve your well-being in both mind and body.
According to TCM, the year is separated into five seasons – spring, summer, late summer, autumn, and winter. Late summer starts in the third week of August and lasts until the first day of autumn in late September. It is a period of transition from the hot and active (yang) energy of summer to the cooler, more passive (yin) energy of autumn. It is also a season when the body longs to be grounded and become more centred. Thus, it is not surprising that late summer corresponds to the element ‘earth,’ which is one of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) that are so integral to TCM.
That said, how do you harmonize with the seasons to stay healthy and find your balance? Here are some important principles to keep in mind.
5 Tips to Stay Healthy from TCM
1. Pay Attention to the Sweet Flavour
Foods categorized as having a ‘sweet’ flavour play an important role in supporting the stomach and spleen, the organs that dominate in late summer. This includes foods like whole grains, legumes, root vegetables, as well as meats and fruits. They are packed with nutrients the body needs to stay healthy. They also help stabilize blood sugar levels to reduce cravings. However, try to limit refined sugars and refined grains because they offer little nutrition and can lead to blood sugar imbalances.
2. Warm-Up Your Food
Late summer is a season of transition, so to stay healthy, it is time to start moving from raw foods, which are more abundant in summer, towards warmer foods. Soups, stir-fries, stews, and porridges are all especially good this time of year. This is because eating warm foods stimulates the digestive system, leading to a healthier metabolism, better nutrient absorption, and increased overall energy.
3. Keep a Regular Eating Schedule to Stay Healthy
The digestive system likes regularity, so try not to skip meals. According to TCM, the body operates according to a biological clock that is based on the cyclical movement of energy in the body. The stomach and spleen are strongest between 7am–11am, which means that this is the time that food is most easily digested. So it is especially important to avoid skipping breakfast.
4. Take Time to Eat
Try to eat in a low-stress environment and have dedicated times for meals. This allows the digestive system to do its job undisturbed, without stress or interference from other tasks. Also, remember to chew properly. This process not only breaks down the food, but it also adjusts its temperature to help the stomach and spleen process it better. Chewing also helps you calm down and focus on the task at hand. This increases food enjoyment and may consequently also prevent overeating.
5. Find Your Balance with Exercise
The body needs activity in late summer and it’s a great time to go outside and enjoy nature by walking, swimming, gardening, hiking, yoga and other forms of exercise. At the same time, make sure to give yourself time to rest. Finding your balance when it comes to exercise is especially important if you want to stay healthy this time of year, so try to avoid any extremes.
Now that you know some of the basic principles, here are also some delicious recipes you can enjoy this August and September:
Madalina Hubert is a Toronto-based writer specializing in art, culture, travel, and culinary explorations.