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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

Stay Cool as a Cucumber

Apr 11, 2011 04:25PM ● By Vicki Chelf

In Western nutrition, we do not take into consideration the cooling and warming effects that foods have on our bodies. In both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayur Veda however, this is very significant. In fact, heat and cold, according to Paul Pitchford in Healing With Whole Foods, are the two most important aspects of traditional Chinese nutritional healing. It is not difficult to have a basic understanding of this concept, and make it work to help you keep cool in our intense Florida heat.

Pitchford explains the physiology of warming and cooling foods with the analogy of a tree. In wintertime, the sap of a tree flows inward and down toward its roots. In our bodies, cooling foods direct the body’s energy inward and lower. This way the exterior and upper portions of the body cool first. The opposite happens with warming foods, which push the energy deep and the blood up and out to the surface of the body. He explains how extremely hot foods, which are usually eaten in tropical climates, do not help to warm the body in wintertime, because the reaction of heat is only temporary. As the heat from hot spices comes to the surface of the body it radiates out, creating a cooling effect.

Although different practitioners and schools of thought have somewhat dissimilar ideas as to what is heating and what is cooling, some views are widely accepted. One such notion is that plants that take longer to grow are more warming than those that grow quickly. Therefore, examples of warming vegetables are carrots, onions, leeks, winter squash, rutabagas, kale and parsnips. It is interesting to note that these warming foods, except kale and leeks, can either be stored naturally in a root cellar throughout the winter, or by drying. Kale and leeks, on the other hand, are remarkable because they can both withstand frost that would kill most vegetables, and be available fresh well into a northern winter. Ginger root is particularly warming and so are ginseng, garlic, cloves, basil, rosemary and cinnamon. Other warming foods are oats, chestnuts, and walnuts. Beef, chicken, ham, turkey, lamb, fresh water fish, alcohol, cigarettes and coffee are also warming. Have you ever noticed that heavy meat-eaters have more difficulty in dealing with the summer heat than most vegetarians?

Foods that cool us in summer are tropical fruits, melons, mangos, papayas, soymilk, tofu, wheat, millet, barley, amaranth, mung beans and sprouts. All sea vegetables and micro-algae such as spriulina, and chlorella are cooling and so is wheat and barley grass. Some cooling vegetables are lettuce, radish, cucumber, celery, button mushrooms, asparagus, chard, eggplant, spinach, summer squash, and broccoli. Cooling seasonings include peppermint, white pepper, lemon balm, cilantro and marjoram. Raw foods are more cooling than cooked foods, and the longer foods are cooked the more warming they become. For example, a slowly baked stew is a lot more warming than a quick stir-fry.

So nature takes care of us when we take the time to search out her wisdom. When we are in tune with our bodies, we tend to naturally gravitate to the more cooling foods in summer and warming foods in winter. Unfortunately however, because nearly all foods are now available most of the year, and because we spend so much of out time indoors, it is easy to become imbalanced and not choose foods that harmonize with the seasons or our body types. This kind of imbalance can not only make us feel uncomfortably cold in winter, or hot in summer, it can create illnesses that relate to hot or cold.

When we have heat or cold imbalances, we can help to bring our bodies back into equilibrium by choosing foods that suit our condition. Therefore, in summer, it is good to eat more raw or lightly cooked food. It is also the time to eat a lot of sprouts, and choose cooling vegetables and grains. Try it, and you will notice the difference.

Cooling Power Drink
Except for flax, bee pollen and vanilla, which have neutral thermal natures, everything in this drink is cooling. It is nutritious enough to make a light summer meal.

Serves: 1

½ ripe mango
1 frozen banana
1 cup soy milk
1 scoop green powder, such as Greens Plus or Kyodophilus, etc. according to package
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon flax seeds

1 capsule probiotic supplement (open the capsule and pour in the powder)
½ teaspoon bee pollen

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Add filtered water to achieve the desired consistency and blend again. Enjoy immediately.


Vicki Rae Chelf is an experienced natural foods cooking instructor. Her books can be purchased at your local bookstore or through

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