Give Your Gut Critters a Summer Diet!
Our cheeky little Gut Critters (aka our gut microbiome) NEED a Summer diet! They’re calling for us to calm the heat in our belly and transition from Spring foods to a Summer diet. These smart cookies want cooler, moister foods which balance immunity, digestion, energy and weight and we need to listen – so no matter our chosen ‘diet’ (traditional foods, low carb, paleo or veggie) we can all follow our body’s wisdom and these healthy ‘Summer diet’ principles!
We saw in the article Spring Foods Make Those Cut Critters Happy how our clever little gut critters look for us to transition from the heavy, warming ‘comfort’ foods of Winter, to a lighter diet for the Spring season. And now as the month of July brings in the full-blown Summer (at least in this part of the world) once again our gut needs a health-promoting change in its balance of digestive microbes – so we need to change what we eat.
If you haven’t read the above article, I encourage you to have a look – it sets the context for this article, and explains why eating seasonally is about a whole lot more than not eating strawberries in December! You may want to book mark this Summer diet article for subsequent years, as I also give you lots of suggestions for Spring foods that help you optimise your gut bacteria in readiness for that long-awaited Spring-time renewal and regeneration. Never forget: Mother Nature happens on our inside, as well as ‘out there’!
Pita – the ‘fire’ in your belly!
I have a huge respect for the traditional food wisdoms of all cultures – and here’s what I want to share with you: The ancient science of Ayurveda sees ‘Summer diet’ as all about balancing our ‘Pita’ energy. Pita is all about heat… the fire in our belly which supports digestion and metabolism. In Ayurvedic medicine, the hotter summer months bring on an excess of Pita, which overheats our body and produces metabolic dysfunction, the wrong kind of gut bacteria and, ultimately, less than optimal health.
In this part of the world, the full-blown Summer season runs from around July – October (give or take!) but given our quirky UK climate, it’s often difficult to predict what the weather’s going to do! A rule of thumb is to go with the flow and adjust foods according to the weather, listening mindfully to what our body is asking for. Choose Spring foods on the cooler days of early Summer and Summer foods (like those below) when things heat up. Eating mindfully is about more than eating slowly and deliberately; it starts with learning to listen intuitively to the body’s messages that says, “Hey, it may be Sunday, but it’s not a great idea to tuck into that traditional roast dinner at 30 degrees and climbing!”
During the Summer season, we’d do our gut critters a favour by selecting sweet, bitter, astringent tastes and cooler, moister metabolic foods – like salads, steamed vegetables, fruit and coconut oil (famed for it’s easy digestion and regulation of metabolism). Sipping cool (not icy cold) water infused with cooling cucumber, coconut water, mint or dandelion herbal teas is also called for.
For me, this feels like a whole lot of sense!
As well as soothing digestion (like mint), dandelion is a natural diuretic and supports our liver’s detox function, strengthens the immune system and balances blood sugar – and has a whole bunch of other impressive health benefits, too.
And, much as we all love those spicy and stimulating foods like curries, chillis (and coffee), they should really be taking a bit of back seat over the summer period – and if that’s too much to ask, eat them in moderation and go for the aromatic, but lighter Thai-style seafood dishes made with coconut milk for its cooling effect on the body!
Summer LIFESTYLE fixes (do these daily)
Enjoy a daily self-massage with coconut oil – you might like to do this after your morning shower. Coconut oil not only protects our skin from sunburn, it conditions it too. Don’t forget that about 80% of what we put onto our skin very quickly gets into our bloodstream, so a daily massage is another great way to support your metabolism and manage (even lose) weight.
Just… breathe! Retaining carbon dioxide is critical to maintaining optimal cellular function – practise one or more breathing techniques like alternate nostril, Buteyko, Kundalini and paper bag ‘re-breathing’ (no, it’s not only for anxiety) and stand back in amazement! My well respected Ayurvedic doctor friend, Steephan, insists that practicing ‘pranayama’ (breathing techniques) is one of the simplest and best things we can do for our health – and it’s FREE. Bonus!
Eat regularly – but not too much! When it’s hot, it’s very tempting to skip meals, or to leave our main meal until later in the evening when it’s cooler. But our digestion is actually strongest around mid-day, so making time to eat a substantial (but not rib-sticking!) lunch – which includes a balance of proteins, fats and carbs that’s right for you – will see us through the afternoon. Note: This is also a perfect opportunity to take the traditional siesta (see below)! A lighter evening meal can then be satisfying and more easily digestible, yet see us through with the energy we need for a good night’s sleep.
Mad dogs and Englishmen! Both physical and cognitive activity need and use energy and the brain is greedy and uses lots of it! If you can rest for a while after eating your lunch, so much the better (siesta is not for nothing!). A gentle walk after eating helps your digestion and is relaxing too.
Spend time OUTSIDE: This. is. a. no. brainer! How many times can I repeat this. Spend time outside…
Like the rest of nature, our bodies have evolved to be outdoors and every cell in our body responds to natural light and dark cycles. So reconnect with nature as often as possible – even better, emulate the savvy Japanese and go ‘Forest Bathing‘ to relax and re-energise by breathing in volatile, antimicrobial wood essential oils. This has now become a recognised relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan and its health benefits and sensory effects on sight, sound, smell and touch are being studied. Watch this space…
Sunbathe regularly. Without sunscreen! This is THE season to take full advantage of the Sun’s energising and healing rays to build up your valuable Vitamin D reserves – and much, much more! Clearly we need to sunbathe safely, but be very aware that many (most?) sunscreens can do a lot more harm than good.
Summer DIET fixes (Listen to your body – this takes practise – choose what appeals and eat regularly)
This list is not (and couldn’t be) in ANY way prescriptive. I offer it to guide your appetite and help enrich your experience of eating Summer’s gifts, rich in cooling seasonal foods. Remember that no ‘one-size’ fits all but no matter our chosen ‘diet’ (traditional foods, low carb, paleo or veggie) we can all follow these ‘Summer diet’ principles:
Any food marked with an asterisk (*) flags a ‘best-bet’ for a Summer food, so if you LIKE it and can TOLERATE it, choose MORE of it!
Always choose non-GMO, organic and whole foods where possible; often intolerances are not caused by the food per se, but by the way they are grown, prepared and processed:
- CHOOSE MORE Summer foods to include in your diet with tastes that are that are sweet, bitter, astringent and cool like salads, smoothies and fresh fruit.
- CHOOSE FEWER Summer foods that are pungent, spicy, sour, salty, hot and dry like spicy foods and hot drinks.
This list isn’t comprehensive, so if a food isn’t listed just taste it. If it has two of the three Summer ‘tastes’ (i.e. sweet, bitter, astringent) it’s balancing. Just prepare it in a way that’s cool, heavy and/or oily.
VEGETABLES: *Artichokes, *Asparagus, Avocados, Bean Sprouts,*Bell Peppers,*Broccoli, *Cabbage, *Cauliflower, *Celery, Chicory, *Coriander, Collard Greens, *Cucumbers, *Dandelion, Aubergine, Endive, *Fennel, Green Beans,*Kale,*Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard Greens *Okra, Parsley, Peas, Pumpkin *Radishes (moderation) *Seaweed, Spinach (moderation) *Squash, Acorn Squash, Winter Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes (sweet) , *Watercress *Courgettes. (For easy digestion make sure veggies are well cooked – unless they’re fermented – serve them with a little butter or olive oil, to better absorb the nutrients).
FRUITS *Apples, *Apricots, *Blueberries, *Cantaloupe, *Cherries (ripe) *Cranberries, Dates, Dried Fruit, Figs,*Grapes, *Guavas, *Mangoes, *Melon (all), Nectarines, Oranges (sweet), Tangerines (sweet), Papayas (small amounts) *Peaches (ripe and/or peeled) *Pears ,*Pineapple (sweet), *Plums (ripe), *Pomegranates (sour) *Raspberries, *Strawberries (Fruits are an easily digestible way of getting energy into cells. However, fibrous fruits that hang around in your stomach ferment quickly; if your digestion is weak, eat fruits before eating other foods, or eat them separately (away) from other foods.
DAIRY: Choose raw (unpasteurised dairy) if you can. *Ghee, Butter, Cheese (moderation), Cottage cheese, *Milk, Ice Cream, (If you can tolerate it, dairy is an extremely nutrient-dense FOOD and an easily digestible source of energy).
SWEETENERS: natural whole foods sweeteners, in moderation: Maple Syrup (small amounts), raw sugar.
SPICES: Star Anise, Asafoetida, *Chamomile, *Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, Saffron, Mint (all) (Herbs and spices are, by weight, some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet – use them daily!)
LEGUMES: UNPROCESSED, PROPERLY PREPARED: *Adzuki Beans, Sprouts, *Black Gram, *Fava, *Garbanzo Kidney, Lentils, Lima,*Mung,*Split Pea (All can make a contribution to a nutrient-dense diet BUT they do have inherent drawbacks. If you choose to eat them regularly, take the trouble to prepare them traditionally to avoid digestive distress and collateral health issues).
GRASS-FED, MEAT & WILD FISH: Beef (moderation), Chicken, Duck (moderation), Turkey, Lamb, (moderation), Pork, Eggs (moderation), Freshwater Fish, Prawns (moderation).
GRAINS: WHOLE, UNPROCESSED, PROPERLY PREPARED (soaking, sprouting or fermenting) *Barley Oat *Rice Rye Wheat (If you can tolerate them and choose to eat them, make ABSOLUTELY SURE they’re non-GMO, and organic and, as for legumes, prepare them traditionally).
HERB TEAS: Chicory *Dandelion *Hibiscus *Mint.
OTHER BEVERAGES: Plain or infused water (cool or at room temperature to help digestion). Drink a glass of plain water half an hour before your meal to help hydrate and prepare your digestive system.
So, explore, experiment, notice what you’re craving and how you feel with best of Nature’s Summer table.
But most of all, #GetFoodWisdom, eat summer foods in Summer and enjoy more #Femmergy, vitality and health!
If what you’ve read here has raised issues for you, please feel free to contact me for a chat.
There’ll be no strings, just a friendly, caring and listening ear ♥