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Look. At. You. You, the runner, over-achiever, opportunity maximizer, super disciplinarian… In the summer, are you trying various hydration hacks? Or fine-tuning your nutrition for a fall marathon?
Enter Chinese medicinal food, where food serves as medicine; and everyday ingredients, used properly, can up your nutrition game.
The earliest ideas that codified key principles of Chinese medicinal food appeared on The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, written in the early Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).
Like the idea of Yin and Yang energies, food is generally sorted into hot, warm, neutral, cooling, and cold groups. Pairing food up from different groups, and eating the right food groups in the right seasons (e.g. more cooling food in the summer) might help restore or maintain optimal balance in the body.
Nutrition is highly personal. The practice of Chinese medicinal food also acknowledges that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. For runners and your various nutritional needs, here are a few summer recipes to try. Maybe you are already enjoying some of these ingredients in your shakes and smoothies. Maybe you’re looking to change things up a bit. Or maybe you simply need some cooking and food prep inspiration for the summer.
Summer Smoothie Bowl with Turmeric and Goji Berries
Best for: Recovery
Turmeric is a commonly used spice in Indian cuisine and in Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. It’s main active ingredient, curcumin, gives the spice its yellow color and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. You can find the powder in the spice section in most grocery stores.
Goji berries usually come in a dried form, available in most Asian supermarkets (e.g. HMart, 99 Ranch). This red berry tastes slightly sweet and is loaded with fiber, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Commonly used in soup, juice, liquor, herbal tea, and porridge in China, Goji berries are believed to have anti-aging and immunity-boosting properties.
- 1-2 scoops of whey or vegan protein (for 20 grams of protein)
- 8 ounces of almond beverage
- 1 Tbsp. of turmeric powder
- 2 Tbsp. of goji berries, pre-soaked in water until soft (1-2 hours)
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup of strawberries, stems removed
- 1 tsp. of lemon zest for taste (optional)
In a blender, combine the goji berries, banana, strawberries, and almond beverage; turn on blender on low speed; pause blender to mix in whey or vegan protein powder and turmeric powder; turn on blender at medium speed. Blend until completely smooth. Optional: add lemon zest for taste.
Fried Rice with Wood Eat Mushrooms
Best for: fueling and recovery
Wood ear mushrooms are shaped like ears and a commonly used ingredient in Chinese cuisine. They are full of B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals such as copper, iron, and magnesium. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Wood ear mushrooms have a chewy texture when stir-fried, adding to the soft mouth feel of cooked rice.
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, thinly chopped
- 1 cup of cooked white rice
- 3 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
- 2 cups of wood ear mushrooms, chopped into thin slices
- 1 medium chicken breast, chopped into medium-sized chunks
- 1 Tbsp. of soy sauce
- Kosher salt
- 1 chopped green onion as garnish (optional)
- ** Alternative additions, broccoli and/or sautéed red peppers
- In a large wok or cast-iron skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons of EVOO on medium heat over the stove. Sautée sliced scallion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add chopped chicken breast and cook until lightly browned, for 3-5 minutes. Add salt for taste. Remove chicken breast from heat and transfer to a bowl.
- In the same wok or skillet, heat up the remaining 1 tablespoon of EVOO. Sautée wood ear mushrooms and carrots until soft. Add soy sauce for taste and color. Remove from heat and transfer to a second bowl.
- Complete the dish: combine the cooked chicken breast, wood ear mushrooms, and carrots in one wok or skillet. Consider cooking 2 batches if the wok or skillet is not big enough for all ingredients. Add cooked white rice. Mix up all ingredients in the heated wok. Add salt for best taste.
- Remove from wok and serve. Add optional chopped green onion as garnish.
Multigrain Porridge with Mung Bean and Honey
Best for: pre-run fueling
Mung Bean, known as green beans in Chinese, is a commonly used ingredient in soup, porridge, and desserts in China and various parts of Southeast Asia. Mung Beans are considered one of the best plant-based sources of protein, rich in essential amino acids and packed with fiber, folate, magnesium, and iron. Mung Bean soup is believed to have a cooling effect in traditional Chinese medicine, reducing body heat and preventing heat strokes.
- Instant pot
- 1 cup of Mung Bean
- ½ cup of Korean multigrain rice
- 8 cups of water
- 5 Tbsp. of honey
- In a large bowl, rinse the mung bean and multigrain rice 1-2 times under running water. Mix the mung bean, Korean multigrain rice, and water in the Instant Pot. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid. Make sure it is completely sealed. Press the Porridge button on the Instant Pot front panel, for an automatic setting of 30 minutes of pressure-cooking time.
- When the Instant Pot is done cooking the porridge, slowly release the pressure of the pot. Always follow the user manual of Instant Pot for safety.
- Once the pressure is completely released, open the lid carefully and serve the porridge hot. It can also be chilled for a different taste. Add 5 tablespoons of honey for sweetness.