This summer is shaping up to be one of the hottest that our city, Toronto, has seen in recent years. With the rise in temperatures and humidity, we have turned to various options to keep cool. Many of us have cranked up the AC units, turned on all our available fans, and stocked up on cold drinks (and maybe some ice-cream).
In North America, we tend to reach for iced teas and coffees, salads and smoothies as our go-to summer foods to help cool us off but how long would your list of go-to foods be before you got to tea or some spicy tacos? Many warm countries enjoy hot drinks and very flavourful foods all year round regardless of the heat.
Why do hot countries use more spices in their cooking?
1. The main reason these warmer countries use more spices goes back to the time before fridges were a thing. Food spoils quicker in the heat and the use of spices was used to preserve food. Unlike colder climates where they could hang a piece of meat outside to cool and preserve, warmer climates didn’t have that same luxury. Spices like chilli were favoured because they have antimicrobial and antiparisitic properties.
2. The spice from the food increases your body temperature which leads to your body trying to cool itself down through perspiring. This is the body’s mechanism to cool you down. However, if you’re in a humid heat (like Toronto) eating all the jalapeno peppers you can get your hands on won’t be much help.
3. Chili peppers tend to grow more in these warmer climates, so they end up being used in their cooking more often.
Fighting Fire with Fire
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, we want to use heat to beat the heat (at least with our food and drink). Our digestive system runs on “fire” in order to properly digest food and deliver nutrients around the body. If we cool down our internal temperature too much and go too far out of balance, it can lead to a variety of problems which can develop in various ways. If we are “cold” on the inside, the body has to work extra hard to generate heat in order to digest the foods. This ends up making you hotter and thirstier creating a vicious cycle. Our bodies are meant to balance the heat of the summer, but we often take it too far. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the recommendation is usually to drink fluids that are lukewarm-cool, never iced to keep us in balance with the weather.
Summer Heat and Acupuncture
In the summer time, it’s very common for us to enjoy being outdoors and soaking in the rays. If not careful, we can be exposed to too much heat, too quickly and this can lead to imbalances within the body. Some common symptoms include excess body heat, profuse sweating, parched mouth and throat, constipation and heart palpitations.
With acupuncture, the placement of needles can help with the symptoms and clearing heat.
- Heart 8: can be used to decrease thirst and restlessness, while also treating insomnia.
- Large Intestine 11: helps to clear heat, drops fever and decreases inflammation that may be occurring due to excess heat in the body.
- Pericardium 3: can be used for sunstroke or anxiety that often accompanies heat stroke.
Cooling foods to add to your Summer Diet
- Watermelon – you can eat all parts of it, and has been used in Chinese Herbal Medicine to help with Summer Heat symptoms and dehydration
- Mint and Chrysanthemum Tea – both “cool” herbs that relieves heat in the head and chest. Drink it hot ideally!
- Cucumbers – add it to your water, chopped in salads, or sliced up on side of your breakfast or lunches.
- Other foods include: apricots, peaches, berries, oranges, avocados, mung beans, eggplant, asparagus, bean sprouts, bamboo, bok choy, spinach, watercress and cilantro.
A quick Google search will bring up others not listed and you can easily find some inspired summer recipes to try!