Stay hydrated with fruits under tips of TCM

Updated: 2013-04-19
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Spring in Beijing brings not only flower blossoms and green grass but also windy days and dry air. Those two unpleasant factors contribute to what traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctors call "inner heat," similar to Western notions of dehydration or heatstroke. This condition manifests as shortened temper, dry skin and intense thirst. Aside from drinking water, eating fruit is the second best way for people to stay hydrated. With so many fruits available at Beijing's supermarkets, dietician Huang Yunyu from the Dongzhimen Hospital, affiliated with the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, helps pick out the best fruits for keeping your cool.

The street vendors are out in full force, peeling and coring pineapples from their tricycles. Pineapple has a seductively sweet smell, but does that make it a good candidate for cooling down your body? According to TCM theory, said Huang, human beings have nine variations in body temperatures, and those who can easily get too much "inner heat" have a hot, damp constitution that gives them acne and makes them easily irritable.

"If those people overeat pineapple, they can get 'inner heat,'" Huang said. "If they want to reduce this, they can eat something that can cool them down, such as mung bean or, to play it simple, immerse the pineapple into salt water for 15 minutes." Huang also suggests cooking the pineapple, which can be a great (and healthier) chuanr alternative at your next summer grill out. Sweet and sour pork cooked with pineapple can also be a great choice.

Mango, rich in vitamin C, minerals and protein, and used in TCM as a diuretic, can make a great addition to summer dishes such as salads or juices. But overeating mango can also cause too much 'inner heat,' says Huang, which he says can make one's lips go numb.

"If people are of the damp, hot types, they need to pick the soft and well-ripened mangos rather than hard ones to eat," Huang said. What's more, mangos contain a high level of sugar, so people who have diabetes need to watch their portions.

With a distinctive, pungent odor and a formidable, spiky exterior, the durian, or jack fruit, has earned the title as "King of Fruits" in Southeast Asia. It's a great source of protein, vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and potassium.

But Huang said that just like eating pineapple and mango, if people who overheat easily want to eat durian, they need to choose the very ripe ones. If one eats too much, according to Huang, they need to eat something else to cool down, such as mung bean or mangosteen. Mung bean is, according to TCM theory, a kind of "cold" food that can help bring to relief to an overheated body. Mung bean soup is also used to prevent sunstroke during summer. Other fruits such as pear and watermelon can also help chill you out.

Eating too much durian might be a bad idea for most, though, since the fruit's high levels of protein and vitamins are matched by its fat and caloric content.
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