One of the beauties of the warmer months of the year is that we can peel off our layers. Our wardrobes get lighter, our days (let’s hope) get easier, our hearts get freer—even our energy levels feel nimbler.
Our diets also tend to get lighter, often without our really trying. (Who craves huge, heavy meals when the sun is beating down and the beach is calling out for us?)
But are there foods that can actually reduce body heat and help us...chill out?
Much in the way that garlic, ginger and chili peppers can make us feel internally warmed, other foods (regardless of the item’s actual temperature) can provide the opposite effect—a gentle, pleasing cooling that can diminish the discomfort that frequently arrives with uber-high temps.
‘The central nervous system reacts to whatever the sensory system tells it is going on,” says Barry Green of John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven, Connecticut. “Therefore, the pattern of activity from pain and warm nerve fibers triggers both the sensations and the physical reactions of heat, including sweating and flushing.”
Indeed, from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, foods have different energetic properties and are categorized along a spectrum of cold, cooling, neutral, warming or hot. Everything we eat falls somewhere on this range. Foods that are “cooling”—such as cantaloupe and celery—help to lightly build “yin” energy, which is in itself cooler than its fiery opposite, “yang.”
Reaching for these yin foods during the hot summer months will not only cool you down naturally (and reestablish harmony in your body), but also hydrate you.
Here are the top eats and drinks for our sultry summer months:
There are few pleasures in the world like sinking your teeth into a piece of fruit on a sizzling August day.
But for something truly refreshing, step away from warming fruits like cherries, coconut and peaches, and instead dig into cooling gems that have a high water content, such as honeydew, kiwis, oranges, strawberries and tangerines. Not only are these choices sweet and satisfying, they’re also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Vegetables & leafy greens
Squash and potatoes are winter staples because of their warming effects. On the other side of the continuum, cooling veggies and leafy greens are full of hydrating powers and energy-enhancing fiber (to say nothing of their excellent amounts of vitamins and nutrients).
A few of your best options? Swiss chard, turnips, watercress, cucumbers, radishes and alfalfa and soybean sprouts (which always taste delicious on a heart-healthy avocado-and-whole-wheat sandwich).
Grains, nuts, seeds, beans & legumes
Replenish—and revive—on a triple-digit day with grains, nuts, seeds and more? Yes, yes and yes. As much as “20% of our daily H20 intake comes from solid foods,” Health confirms. Fruits and vegetables are your best options for hydration, but some grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes can also cool and restore. Consider adding buckwheat, millet, mung beans, sesame oil and tofu to your shopping list.
While water is always your best option for cooling down and rehydrating, green tea—which is produced from the unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant—falls under a “cooling” food and, if consumed in moderation, can be both hydrating and a boon for your overall well-being. High in polyphenols—antioxidants that can help shield your body against free radicals and toxins—green tea is also rich in catechins, which may support healthy metabolism. (Sound unbearable on a boiling day? Try it iced.)
To not only rehydrate but also replenish your electrolytes (the minerals critical to every cell function in your body), stir up a fast-and-simple electrolyte-restoring drink by mixing lemon juice, lime juice and orange juice with 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda.
Feel like something creamy and cold (but far more nutritious than ice cream)? Blend a banana with diced apples and pomelos—all three fruits are the ultimate in cooling foods. Pair it with a spinach and strawberry salad, and you’ll be golden—no suntan required.