With extreme heat settling over vast areas this summer and temperatures stuck at 100 degrees or more for days on end in some places, it's time to adjust our diets for the duration. It's natural that rich heavy foods just don't appeal to us when the thermometer spikes, and we turn to lighter fare to cool us off.
Eating wisely is especially important right now to minimize our discomfort and maximize our energy - despite the heat.
Here are seven simple food tips to help keep you cool:
1. Water. Our bodies can consist of up to about 75% water (less as we age) and during this extreme heat we lose a lot of that fluid to sweat. Even mild dehydration will sap your energy and make you feel tired. Keep your body fluids replenished with plain water and skip the sugary sodas which can actually further dehydrate you. Even if you are working or playing outside, that means ditching the sugary sports drinks and trying instead some ice cold natural coconut water which replaces electrolytes without adding sugar.
2. Watermelon. Juicy fruits are in season during the summer and their water content helps to bring our temperatures down. In addition to watermelon, try grapes, peaches, nectarines and plums. They are also easy to digest so your body doesn't get overheated working to process them.
3. Cucumbers. Lots of vegetables harvested in the summer are also full of cooling water, especially the cucumber, synonymous with cool. Other good choices are tomatoes, celery and leafy greens. Toss them all together in a great summer salad.
4. Spicy gazpacho. You might think that it's a good idea to avoid the added heat of spicy foods in this weather. However, although hot peppers will heat you up and make you sweat, the moisture they generate actually cools you off. That's why some of the warmest countries are known for the spiciest cuisines.
5. Fish. Avoid heavy meats which are warming and raise your exertion level and body temperature just in digesting them. Go for a lighter protein source like a light fish, or vegetable sources of protein, like cold beans tossed in a salad.
6. Sorbet. Although you might be craving a summer ice cream cone, remember that dairy products are rich and heavy and hard to digest especially if you overdo it. Go small on the portions or better yet settle for an all fruit sorbet or just plain fruit.
7. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Coffee, tea and alcohol all have diuretic properties and the loss of fluids will make you feel even warmer. If you do indulge, go easy and don't forget tip #1 – hydrate with water!