Eating Hot to Stay Cool

By Jennifer Kapraun, LAc

Summer is upon us, and as the weather starts to heat up, it's time to think about the healthiest ways to keep our bodies cool in the sweltering Carolina heat.  When I was living in South Korea, where the summer climate is as hot and humid as ours, June through August was the only time you could get samgyetang, a traditional ginseng-chicken soup, something we would think of as exclusively a winter dish.

Why eat hot things when it's hot?  Because our bodies like to cool off from the outside in, and heat up from the inside out.  Heating your insides a little, with hot tea, or ginseng and garlic in the dish mentioned above, actually supports the natural process of sweating and cooling better than ingesting cold things.  Folks in the middle east like to drink hot mint tea when it's 110 in the shade.  The gentle spiciness of the mint helps bring qi and blood to the exterior of the body, where it can be cooled by sweating.  Many food cultures that arose in hot humid climates, often add lots of spicy chilis to their meals; think Szechuan!

In Traditional Chinese Nutrition, you can also eat foods that have a cold nature like melon, mung beans, cucumber but not foods that have a cold temperature like ice cream, iced drinks, anything straight out of the refrigerator.  Putting too much cold stuff in your stomach gives your body an extra job: warming up your stomach while trying to cool down your body.  This can make the summer heat even more exhausting!


  • Small chicken (Cornish hen)
  • 1/4 cup of sweet rice
  • a dozen cloves of garlic
  • green onions
  • a few jujubes (Chinese dates)
  • 1 or 2 small ginseng roots (Available at Asian markets)


  1. Wash and rinse your chicken in cold running water.
  2. Soak 1/4 cup of sweet rice for 1 hour.
  3. Stuff the chicken with the sweet rice, a ginseng root, a few jujubes, and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Place it in a pot.
  4. Pour water into the pot and boil it over high heat for 20 minutes. When it starts boiling, skim off any foam and fat that rises to the surface Then pour in more water and boil it over medium heat for 40 minutes.
  5. When it cooks properly, the chicken will be easily pulled apart by chopsticks. Serve it with salt and pepper and kimchi or kaktugi.
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