Protect the Body During the ‘Dog Days’ of Summer With 3 Special Foods

Bitter melon dishes next to a fresh bitter melon.

Eating bitter foods like bitter melon in the summer can help relieve the heat and improve one’s irritability. (Image: Hiroshi Tanaka via Dreamstime)

To the ancient Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” usually occurred around the time the star Sirius appeared to rise alongside the sun. These ancients believed that the heat from the two stars combined is what made these days the hottest of the year — a period that could also bring on fevers or even catastrophe. The Romans referred to this period as ‘Dies Caniculares’ or ‘Days of the Dog Star,’ and over time it has become known as the “Dog Days” of summer.

The term “Dog Days” refers to a period of particularly hot, sultry, and humid weather occurring during the summer months of July and August in the Northern Hemisphere. Most people living in this hemisphere are concerned about when this period will start. They want to ensure they can maintain their health and sanity for the duration of the dog days. 

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As an old saying goes: “If you eat three kinds of foods on dog days, you will be trouble-free all summer.”

Cute black and white dog with a red collar wearing yellow sunglasses at the beach.
If you eat three kinds of foods on dog days, you will be trouble-free all summer. (Image: Tjrun262 via Dreamstime)

3 types of food to eat during the dog days of summer

1. Bitter foods

Bitter melon is one type of bitter food. Eating bitter foods in the summer can help relieve the heat and improve one’s irritability. The high temperatures in summer will inevitably lead to ill tempers thus causing health problems if left unchecked.

2. Melons

Eating more melons in the summer is good for the body. Some melons, however, should not be eaten frequently, such as muskmelon (a yellow-colored sweet melon with a musky smell). Other names include cantaloupe, rockmelon, and Hami melon to name just a few.

Loofah, cucumber, winter melon, and pumpkin are considered to be seasonal melons. If you consume these in moderation, you can partake of them throughout the whole summer without any ill effects.

3. Beans

After entering the dog days, eating more beans is considered good for your health. Red beans and mung beans are good choices. Red beans are good for removing body dampness and strengthening the spleen. Mung beans are helpful for relieving summer heat. Eating green beans every three to five days helps beat the heat and can also strengthen the spleen and stomach. Excessive perspiration can lead to a loss of potassium in the body. Since edamame is rich in potassium, eating this food during the summer can help replenish the loss.

Snow peas are a good source of dietary fiber and help relieve heat and dampness present in the body. They can also nourish the spleen and stomach. Bean sprouts are rich in nutrients, especially protein that’s beneficial to health.

2 types of foods to avoid during the dog days

1. Raw or cold foods

Cold drinks, ice cream, iced fruits, all kinds of muskmelon, and any type of cold food can temporarily relieve the heat to cool people down. However, subsequent problems can arise in the body, such as excessive cold and dampness, which decreases the functions of the spleen and stomach causing disharmony between the two organs.

Soft serve ice cream cone at the Market Square in the center of Helsinki, Finland on hot day in July 2018.
Eating too much cold food during the summer may not actually be that good for you. (Image: Mikko Palonkorpi via Dreamstime)

2. Raw seafood

During summer, seafood, such as lobster, snails, and live shrimp, are frequently seen on menus. All these aquatic products need to be fully cooked since they harbor many bacteria and parasites.

Things to avoid during the hottest days in summer

  1. Direct cold air from air conditioners.
  2. Excessive cooling of the throat and back of the body in vulnerable children and the elderly.
  3. Drinking iced water, especially when you are sweating. Consuming warm water is best.

When do the dog days start in 2022?

The dog days can be divided into the early, middle, and last stages.

  • Early stage — from July 18 to July 25.
  • Middle stage — from July 26 to August 14.
  • Last stage — from August 15 to August 24.

The continuous, intense, high temperatures experienced during summertime mark a period in which a high incidence of diseases can occur. This is the time for people to employ measures that will help maintain and preserve their health. Having the ‘know-how’ will help reduce any onset of illness and allow you to spend a worry-free summer. Middle-aged and elderly people need to nourish their hearts and blood vessels to avoid cardiovascular disease. Prevention is also the best cure.

Translated by Patty Zhang

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