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In hot and humid weather, people naturally want to rely on cold food to cool down. Mung bean soup and cold watermelon are  two of the top choices for many people.

The automatic tendency that we have in Western culture to cool down the body with cold foods will in fact do just the opposite; drawing coldness into the body, weakening the immune system and resulting in sickness. In fact, people need to eat some hot foods during the hottest days, to maintain a balance of coolness and heat in the body.

Expert advice on how to eat hot foods

Public Domain/Dana Payne

Fruits and vegetables: grapes, leeks

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine strongly advise that we try to only eat foods that are in season. Summer is the season of grapes, longan and lychee. Appropriate consumption of these warm fruits can improve gastrointestinal function and promote the basic metabolism of the body.

Among vegetables, pumpkin has a warm nature and is good for the spleen. It helps strengthen gastrointestinal motility. Leeks belong to the Yang nature. They supplement kidney function and helps increase appetite. People should pay attention to eat the right portions. Those who are weak in Yang and tend to feel cold and have a weak spleen and stomach can eat more. Those whose bodies are hot and humid, with Yang nature and suffer from acute conjunctivitis should be careful in eating these types of food.

Public Domain/Guilhem Vellut

Meat: beef and mutton

People are likely to accumulate coldness in the body in the summer due to air conditioning and drinking cold liquids.

Eating warm foods such as mutton and beef can help heat the body and disperse coldness. They are especially good for those who have cold feet and cold hands in the summer and poor circulation.

An old saying goes: “A bowl of mutton soup in the summer saves you from a prescription.” But when eating hot meals you should pay attention to balance the intake of meat and vegetables and hot and cold foods.

When consuming mutton, you need to eat more cabbage, melon and green vegetables to balance the cold and  the heat. If you have a toothache or fever, or if your body is hot in nature, you should not eat hot meat.

Public Domain/Dirk Vorderstraße

Hot food: noodles, hot porridge

During the hottest days, many people lose their appetite and feel sluggish.

Ancient tradition suggested eating dumplings, followed by noodles, an egg and pancakes. This will energize the body. A bowl of hot, steaming food will help people sweat and release heat from the body, helping the body to cool down and improve appetite.

We can eat hot noodle soup or hot porridge as our main dish and thus ease the discomfort caused by cold food. Black tea as well has a warm nature. It is very good for people with a cold spleen and cold stomach.

 

Seasoning: not just for flavor

Eating spicy food midsummer also helps release heat from the body. Sun Simiao, a well-known doctor during the Tang Dynasty, stated in his “Qianjin Prescription” that spicy foods dissipate heat from the body.

Modern scientific research also shows that spicy foods can cause blood vessels to expand, and  cool down the  body. In areas of heavy humidity, eating spicy foods in the summer can also “dehumidify” the body.

When cooking dishes, adding the right amount of onions, garlic, pepper and other hot spices not only enhances the flavor, but also kills germs and helps with detoxification and conditioning of the stomach and intestine.

Public Domain/Nino Barbieri

Pepper

Chili is rich in the bioactive substance capsaicin, which can improve appetite and promote digestion. It also helps to lower blood pressure, protect the heart and can accelerate the death of cancer cells, without harming healthy cells.

Frequent intake of fresh pepper in the summer is very beneficial. Pepper is rich in vitamin C and can strengthen the immune system. You should try not to fry pepper, or its health effects will be greatly reduced.

Ginger

As the saying goes, “eat radish in the winter and eat ginger in the summer.” Ginger is spicy and has a warm nature. It is good for people with a cold body nature[J1] according to Chinese medicine theory. Adding ginger when stir frying vegetables helps to warm the stomach. It can also be mixed with jujube, brown sugar, etc.

One can also mix half ginger and half tea to warm-up the blood. Women who suffer from cramps during their periods, can drink this to help reduce menstrual pain. Adding ginger juice when eating sea foods helps kill the germs and and fends off the dampness.

Public Domain/ Donovan Govan

Garlic

Garlic can promote the body’s absorption of vitamin B1 and improve immune function. It also acts as an anti-bacterial and cancer agent and reduces triglycerides (fatty deposits in the blood)

Garlic’s potency is reduced with heat so it is more beneficial to eat it raw. The best way is to mash it into a garlic paste and eat it after 10 to 15 minutes. This is good for the formation of allicin, a compound with various antimicrobial features which is found in freshly crushed garlic.

Public Domain/Rosino

Onion

Onion’s spicy ingredients are organic sulfides. Research has shown that organic sulfides have antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.

After an onion has been cut open and exposed to oxygen for long periods, or after being cooked at a high temperature, the organic sulfide content will be reduced. Therefore, the best way to eat onion is raw or lightly cooked.

A traditional Bengali fish recipe made by steaming hilsa fish in authentic spicy mustard sauce. (Public Domain/Pausali mitra)

Mustard

The colorless oil called allyl isothiocyanate is responsible for mustard’s intense, pungent taste. This active substance helps prevent cancer.

Mustard can irritate nasal passages so it is best not to eat it alone. It can be used on dumplings with vinegar or soy sauce.

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