How I love the long, hassle-free, fun-in-the-sun days of summer. When the mercury rises to numbers that seem unthinkable levels, summer can drain us all. Those long, sunny days for which we craved I February are seemingly never-ending.
We can change some of the difficulties of too much heat and too much sun. By making some smart food and beverage choices, we can minimize the sun’s toll on our bodies and enjoy every minute of every carefree day.
Perhaps the smartest thing to ensure during the summer is getting enough fluids into the body. Dehydration is one of the major causes of low energy and increased heat exhaustion in the summer, and often it sneaks up on us. Truly, by the time we feel thirsty, we have already been dehydrated for a while.
It’s an easy fix to get ahead of dehydration this summer and hydrate.
Water is a great choice, but think out of the box and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, all of which are plentiful during this season. They come with a very high water content which is enriching to the body’s cells, which then translates to lower body temperatures.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially the ones eaten raw, have powerful nutrients that also serve to cool you from with. A few years ago I wrote of some of them You can see them right here. Here are ten more.
Dark Leafy Greens.
Leafy green vegetables find a spot, often right at the top, on every list of healthy food options. Greens like spinach, ale, collards and romaine are all rich in vitamins and minerals, besides having a very high water content. It’s that very high water content that help to cool the body and also make them easier to digest. Because they are easier to digest, your body doesn’t have to work and hard, which saves you energy and keeps you cool. See more about the many benefits of dark leafy greens here.
You can be “cool as a cucumber” this summer. When the temperature gets into those uncomfortable high zones, choosing cucumbers, which are profoundly hydrating, and will help to keep body temperatures low. Slice cucumber dipped in hummus is a great snack, and adding cucumber to juices or green smoothies that you’re making will likely produce a very pleasant and welcome effect.
With the amount of flavor that it packs, it’s amazing to me that watermelon is actually 95% water. Sweet, juicy and crunchy, the fruit reduces body heat immediately. Perhaps this is why watermelon slices are such a welcome addition to every summer gathering. It also can be made into a delicious soup (see it here) or salsa (here’s the recipe)
Summer or not, it’s always a good thing to watch for the season produce first, because those season fruits and vegetables give us what our body craves. Peaches, for example are very cooling, whereas tubers and winter squashes warm us like space heaters in the cold months.
Peaches are a caloric bargain with just 35-50 calories each, and are crammed with vitamins A and C, riboflavin and potassium, essential nutrients for maintain healthy skin and body.
Like dark leafy greens and cucumbers, fresh pineapple is loaded with water and nutrients. Consider adding some to salads and smoothies. Pineapple contains bromelain, which is an enzyme that reduces inflammation in the body. Like other fruits and vegetables, It is most effective in its raw state so those precious enzymes remain unharmed by the heat of cooking.
Here is the true summer squash, ranging in color from yellow to dark green. All the varieties are water-packed and high in vitamin C, phytonutrients, and manganese, a mineral that helps protect your body from free-radical damage. (This is especially important when we spend long summer days in the blazing sun.)
I understand that there actually are some people who don’t care for mint. I love its peppy smell, the bright flavor it adds to smoothies and salads, and its zesty and cooling effect. It has been used as a home remedy for lowering body heat for centuries. Even before the science of the cooling effect was known, people everywhere recognized its beneficial properties, but here’s the word about why that is.
Our nervous system is built t sense changes in temperature. The receptor protein that senses those changes is TRPM8 and it is found in all cold-sensing nerve cells. Once activated by TRPM8, our nerve cells send a message to the brain that “things are cooling down.”
Mint contains menthol, a chemical that directly binds to TRPM8 and activates it. It essentially tricks the brain into sensing a temperature change. The effect is cooling.
Radishes are water-rich and vitamin C-rich. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that lowers body heat. Radishes also an anti-inflammatory properties, which combat heat stress. They are considered diuretic, expectorant, and stimulant, and also cleanse the liver, prevent constipation, dispel phlegm, clear congested sinuses, remedy laryngitis and sore throat, and hep to prevent viral infections such as cold and flu. They keep fairly well in the refrigerator, and removing their leaves will help the radishes keep even longer. Don’t forget about these colorful gems this season.
Another favorite of mine, for sure, lemons, like all citrus fruits have very cooling effects on the body. They promote detoxification thanks to their high vitamin C levels. By adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or a lemon wedge to your water, you will stay hydrated throughout the whole day while you add immune-boosting compounds that protect your body and skin, the body’s largest organ.
Fresh coconut water is loaded with electrolytes and essential minerals that help keep the body well-hydrated and electrolyte balanced. We lose electrolytes through sweating, which comes easily in the hot weather. The packaged varieties of coconut water on store shelves have been treated and pasteurized and are not nearly as beneficial or cost effective. I have the best luck finding well-priced, fresh young Thai coconuts in the refrigerated section in Asian markets. For more on the many benefits of coconut water, click here.
These very cooling foods are also among the healthiest. Don’t miss a single bite of any of them during this rich summer growing season.