Foods that cool the body are more vital in the summer than foods that keep the kitchen cool. Just as you need coolant in your car to drive across the desert mid-day, you must also have “coolant” in your body to keep from overheating. Below are three tips to for finding and eating foods that cool the body in the heat.
Don’t Put a Match in the Tank
While it is true that you probably don’t feel like cooking when the temperatures outside skyrocket, running through the drive-up window for a meal may be even worse. We could compare that meal to a match inside your car’s gas tank.
Fast foods and processed foods have two strikes against them. First, they are inflammatory – they create more fire in your body. Partly this is because they alter the microbes in your gut. Dr. Edwin McDonald of the University of Chicago Department of Medicine suggests that you avoid foods you couldn’t make at home, such as corn chips.
Second, processed foods are dehydrating. Did you know that most products made with flour have a moisture content of less than 10%? Therefore, they rob your body of water in order to digest them. When you become dehydrated, you have more difficulty regulating your temperature and staying cool enough. In this post about fast foods that don’t rot, Serious Eats posits that it is the dryness of certain fast food burgers that inhibits mold growth.
By contrast, foods that cool have high water content and are anti-inflammatory. But just eating a cooling food here or there will not do the trick. Cooling foods must be part of a long-term lifestyle.
Start with Coolant
To regulate its temperature, your body’s primary need is for water. But perhaps drinking plain water is boring or unsatisfying to you. Do you like fizz and flavor? I suggest that you grab sparkling water if you like carbonation, add an herbal tea bag for flavor (and electrolytes), and sprinkle in some powdered glycine (an amino acid) if you you need a sweetener. But you don’t just have to drink your water. You can slurp it, crunch it, and swap it!
- Slurp your water: Bone broths are very hydrating. Not only are they mostly water, they also contain many electrolytes to help you hold onto your hydration. There’s no sense in gulping down lots of fluids, just to end up urinating them off. If a tall mug of broth sounds unappetizing for your summer picnic, consider a broth-based cold soup, such as this refreshing gazpacho.
- Crunch your water: High water content foods, such as melons, leafy greens, and cucumbers are perfect for slaking your thirst and hydrating your body. As a bonus, they require no cooking! An entree such as this roasted peach and arugula salad might be just perfect for a hot summer evening. Another tip is to blend frozen watermelon into your beverage. Pink lemonade, anyone?
- Swap your water: Exchange flour products for vegetables. For example, you can replace commercial chips with thin-sliced jicama, and trade out conventional noodles for spiralized vegetables, which are much more hydrating and much less inflammatory. A great weeknight dinner could be butternut squash pasta smothered in pesto and topped with rotisserie chicken.
Remember Foods That Cool
Yes, melons and cucumbers are hydrating. But other foods can help cool the body, too.
- Anti-inflammatory foods will take down some of your fire: Pineapple and papaya have proteolytic enzymes that help “digest” inflammation. Why not sip a pineapple-cucumber-basil smoothie and get the best of both anti-inflammatory and hydrating foods?
- Foods with cooling properties quell your heat from the inside out: Mint has a reputation for being able to lower body heat. I like these suggestions from blogger Elizabeth Rider to add more mint to your repertoire.
- Citrus fruits help break down fats that warm the body: Especially use lemons and limes abundantly. Mix fresh-squeezed lemon juice with olive oil for an easy salad dressing, stir some orange zest into your morning oatmeal, blend limes into your morning smoothie, sip a lemon-ginger tea with your meal, or juice limes into marinades for grilled meats. My favorite use is to squeeze the juice of 1 lime into a fruity sorbet made from 1 avocado and 1 cup of ripe frozen berries.
- High-electrolyte foods retain the water that keeps you cool: coconut water is particularly high in electrolytes. I like to add a splash of coconut water to my water bottle, or blend it into a smoothie.