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Summertime and digestion is dodgy
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Crucian carp

Milky crucian carp soup is one of Chinese's favorite dishes as it is not only delicious but also greatly fortifying. It is a good choice for the weak, the elderly, pregnant women and patients convalescing.

Apart from giving energy to the weak, crucian carp is also effective in improving the digestion. Crucian carp and water shield (a water plant) soup was recommended indigestion and poor appetites in "Tang Bencao" ("Tang Materia Medica"), a pharmacopoeia of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

TCM believes that "neutral" energy crucian carp can help dispel pathogenic dampness, benefit the spleen, improve appetite, reinforce and activate blood circulation.

Eating it often can help strengthen the digestive system, relieve vomiting and diarrhea, nourish blood and energy, and relieve edema. As well, it is a popular therapy to promote lactation in pregnant women.

There are various ways to cook crucian carp including steaming, frying or cooking with soy sauce. Yet fried crucian carp is the most popular as the nutrition is best absorbed this way.

It is a good choice for most people but not for anyone with a fever. It is best not to eat crucian carp with leaf mustard, honey and mai dong (ophiopogon root).

Purple haricot

Purple haricot is a nutritious food recommended in summer as it also helps relieve various digestive problems. It can help warm the stomach and spleen, dispel pathogenic dampness and heat, relieve diarrhea and thirst as well as summer-sickness, as recorded in "Bencao Gangmu" ("The Compendium of Materia Medica") by the famous herbalist Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

TCM believes that "neutral" purple haricots can help reinforce energy, dispel pathogenic dampness, benefit the spleen, and relieve summer sickness. They are especially recommended for those with weak digestive systems, or who suffer indigestion, vomiting, poor appetite or acute inflammation in their digestive systems.

Purple haricots are suitable for most people with digestion problems. They can also help relieve pathogenic dampness related to problems like colds, headaches, dizziness, irritation and thirst. They are also recommended for cancer patients as modern research has found them rich in hemaglutinin, which helps fight cancer.

Always remember to cook purple haricots well before eating as raw purple haricots are said to be poisonous. Choose only tender purple haricots as the poisonous matter tends to gather in older haricots. Remember to boil them in water for at least 10 minutes so that the poisonous elements can be naturally neutralized.

Lotus root

Lotus root is high in nutrition yet low in fat. It can be eaten uncooked, steamed, fried or made into soup. The choicest lotus roots are usually available in summer and autumn.

The best have white skins, short yet fat joints and a faint aroma.

The section of the plant next to the top tastes excellent and is the choice for raw servings.

The sections beside it can be good for steamed or fried dishes, while the other parts are best used in soup.

Lotus root has a high medical value whether cooked or not.

According to TCM, uncooked lotus root is a "cold" food that helps dispel pathogenic heat, improves the appetite, promotes fluid, relieves blood stagnation, thirstiness and hang-overs.

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