Cooling the Body from Within Using Naturally Cooling Foods

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The heat of summer has arrived early in my region and many others– early and with a vengeance!photo 3

When I moved to Portland, Oregon in 1995, I heard from several locals that summer weather starts July 5th. And so it was that my first several Portland 4th of July picnics were in the cold and/or rain. Lately the trend has shifted to earlier hotter summers and this week (late June), it is forecast to be over 100.  And so once again it’s time for something I can never get enough of: food as medicine or deliciousness-therapy.

Within the system of Chinese medicine, the body is viewed much like an individual eco-system, wherein balance is essential for good health. When our internal balance is disrupted significantly, our vitality becomes compromised. The goal of this system of medicine is to recognize the imbalances at hand and to adjust toward optimal health. It’s a dynamic process comprised of continual adjustments. It’s a lot like paddling a kayak. When you paddle a kayak, you are not going from point A to point B in a straight line. You are constantly correcting your course as the nose of the kayak aims a little too far to the left, then a little to far to the right. It’s this series of adjustments that gets you from point A to point B.

Our bodies’ internal eco systems can get imbalanced in various ways. We can have conditions that reflect  too much internal heat or cold, too much moisture (dampness) or too dry, just to name a few. When you add an external element like hot weather to an already existing internal imbalance, the body can go past a tipping point and become symptomatic (or more so than before). When external conditions are extreme enough, they alone can harm our health. 100+ degree weather, when we are not acclimated to it, definitely constitutes an extreme external condition. Understanding Chinese nutritional principles can help us to support our body internally in order to weather this extreme with more comfort and ease.

The nature of an imbalance determines the treatment and there are many avenues of treatment. Nutrition is one of the 5 branches of Chinese medicine and it’s an excellent modality for keeping the body cooled from within.  All foods have a thermal nature. The thermal nature of a food is one of its medicinal properties and is separate from the actual temperature of that food, though how a food is prepared can sometimes change its thermal nature. According to Chinese nutritional theory, there are many foods that are cool or cold in nature and there are specific foods that efficiently clear Summer Heat– heat that is a seasonal environmental factor rather than an internally originating pathology. While some of those foods are seasonal and we naturally gravitate toward them in the summer (like watermelon or cucumbers), others might be less a part of our regular summer eating habits. It’s my hope that knowing about the therapeutic benefits of these foods will enable you to support your body in some new coconut-milkand simple ways to feel it’s best during the heat of summer. It looks like this summer might be an unusually toasty one so enjoy some delicious self-care and feel your best!

This list is certainly not comprehensive but hopefully a good start…

  • Coconunt Milk
  • Mung Beans
  • Seaweed
  • Cucumber
  • Watermelon (melons in general)Mung-Beans-Seed
  • Berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries)
  • Banana
  • Citrus Fruit
  • Eggplant
  • Avocado
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Celery
  • Purslane (a nourishing succulent leafy green that you probably photo 4won’t find at the grocery store due to its brief shelf life but you might find it at your farmers’ market and you have an excellent chance of finding it growing in your garden as an eager volunteer or “beneficial weed”! I can’t keep up with mine!)
  • Mushrooms

Stay cool and bon appetite!


  1. Thanks for this oh so timely post, Susan! It feels good to see almost everything on the list already in my kitchen!

    • Susan Wilmoth on June 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm said:

      You’re welcome, Peggy! Timely indeed. I just sliced up a watermelon 20 minutes ago. If you get inspired to incorporate any of the things on the list that aren’t already in your kitchen, I’d love to hear about it. I’m always interested in new simple recipes. Happy summer eating!

      • I just sampled a recipe at New Seasons today….chopped up watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, raspberries (though I have blueberries so I’m going to use those instead), chopped mint, a little bit of crumbled feta (though I could see omitting that), all tossed in a little olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Could be my main go-to food for the next couple days!

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Susan Wilmoth Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Portland




, LAc, MAcOM
Susan Wilmoth Acupuncture
(formally Seeds of Health, PC)

5525 E. Burnside
Portland, OR 97215


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Susan Wilmoth, Seeds of Health PC
Photography Credits: Jeff Amram Photography and Kelly Nordahl