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August 11, 2009

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

'Warm' foods that can make light of summer ills

SUMMER does not always mean saying no to "warm" foods. Yang-reinforcing foods such as finless eel and ginger can help maintain health for the right people. And sometimes they can perform even better than expensive herbs such as ginseng. Zhang Qian reports.

Finless eel

Finless eel was used by the ancient Chinese people about 2,000 years ago. At first, eel was only used in the making of drums because of its elastic skin. Its medical value was not discovered until the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Since then, the proverb "eating a finless eel in summer and ginseng in winter" has held sway.

Finless eel is rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and lecithin, the main components of the cell membrane of organs and the brain. It is also rich in vitamin A, which is especially good for the eyes.

Apart from improving memory and eye-sight, eating finless eel can also help normalize blood sugar levels for both high blood sugar or low blood sugar patients thanks to some unique elements.

Being high in protein yet low in fat makes finless eel one of the most preferred reinforcing nutritious foods. It is said to be a main ingredient of the legendary daliwan (super strength pill) in some ancient medical books.

Finless eel is a "warm" food that helps reinforce yang energy and blood, benefits the liver and kidneys, dispels pathogenic wind and dampness, and strengthens bones and tendons.

It is often recommended to help relieve sore backs and joints and weakness due to fatigue, illness or giving birth.

And it is also said to help improve sexual desire due to its kidney-reinforcing function.

Finless eel in Xiaoshu (Minor Heat) are comparable to ginseng, many Chinese believe. Finless eel usually grow fat, nutritious and reinforcing in days around Xiaoshu, a Chinese solar term usually falling on July 7 or 8.

But that is not all that contributes to its advantage over ginseng in summer. Actually, eating finless eel in summer also involves dong bing xia zhi (treating winter ailments in summer).

Chronic winter ailments such as bronchitis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis are usually in remission during the summer.

Eating yang-reinforcing finless eel at this time can help grow and store yang energy inside and thus help prevent a relapse of winter ailments when the weather gets colder.

Though reinforcing, finless eel is not suitable for everybody in summer. As it is a yang (warm) reinforcing food, it's not suitable for patients with ailments such as high blood pressure, stroke, hyperthyroidism and acute inflammation such as fever, rhinitis, antiaditis and chronic bronchitis.

People who are bothered with excessive pathogenic heat should also avoid eating it.

It is strongly recommended that you buy freshly killed finless eel and cook it soon after as proteins in the eel will turn into poisonous elements shortly after death. This may cause dizziness, headache, chest distress and even low blood pressure. Dietary Therapy Finless eel and pork

Ingredients: Finless eel (200g), thin pork (100g)


1. Chop the finless eel into pieces, chop the pork into fine slices, and put them together in a bowl.

2. Steam the bowl above water until it is done.

3. Season with salt


Benefits kidney and reinforces energy. It is recommended to relieve sore backs due to deficient energy in kidney.

Finless eel and huangqi (milk veteh)

Ingredients: Finless eel (500g) and huangqi (40g)


1. Chop the finless eel into pieces and wrap the huangqi with gauze.

2. Cook both ingredients with water in a terrine.

3. Season with bruised ginger and salt.


Helps reinforce energy and blood. It is recommended for people who often feel weak and fatigued and lack strength.

Finless eel and yam

Ingredients: Finless eel (400g), yam (200g)


1. Chop the finless eel into pieces, peel the yam and slice thinly.

2. Put all the ingredients in a bowl together with seasonings like salt and bruised ginger.

3. Steam it above water.


Helps normalize blood sugar, especially recommended for diabetes patients. Ginger

Ginger is a "warm" food that helps promote blood circulation and dispels pathogenic dampness and cold. It is also a popular health-helping food in summer.

There's a popular Chinese saying - "eating turnip in winter and ginger in summer, you need no doctors at all."

Though hot in summer, pathogenic cold-related ailments still happen to many people due to air-conditioning. That may include cold, diarrhea and sore backs and shoulders.

"Warm" ginger can help relieve the problems.

People shuttling between the cool indoors and the heat outside may easily catch cold even in summer.

Chewing a few ginger slices or taking a bowl of ginger and brown sugar soup can help dispel the invading pathogenic cold. Soaking feet in hot ginger soup with vinegar and salt can also help.

Repeated exposure to sharply different temperatures may also bring on digestive problems.

The digestive system is in a relatively vulnerable condition due to decreased gastric acid secretion in summer; sharply changing temperatures may aggravate the situation and cause problems such as vomiting, stomachache and diarrhea. Having some ginger or ginger soup can help prevent and relieve the problem.

Long-term exposure to air-conditioning may also cause sore shoulders and backs as pathogenic cold invades through the pores.

Soak a towel in hot ginger soup with some vinegar and salt, then apply the towel to the sore part and repeat several times.

This will help sooth the muscles, promote blood circulation and relieve pain.


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