Finding ways to stay cool gets easier when you have scientifically proven tips to beat the heat! Here are some simple nutrition and lifestyle habits that can keep us a little cooler this summer.
#1: Eat spicy food
Spicy foods are generally a good idea to eat throughout the year because of all the antioxidants and healthy compounds they contain . Eating spicy foods in the summer, specifically, is also a good idea for two reasons:
a) Spicy food is less likely to spoil in the heat .
b) Spices make us sweat – which is our body’s internal cooling mechanism. (This involves dilating our blood vessels, which allows warm blood to dissipate heat. Sweat also literally cools down our skin) .
Now, the more we sweat, the more we need to –
#2: Hydrate – and don’t forget your electrolytes!
Water plays a key role in keeping us alive, making up 60% of the human body . Profuse sweating during the summer can make this water content go down. Even mild water loss (with even a 2% loss in our water content) can lead to dehydration .
So, to prevent this:
(a) Drink more water, and eat hydrating foods.
More than 20% of all the water we need can be provided by the food we eat! Include water-rich foods (most fruits) and vegetables (cucumber, lettuce, celery, and radish, to name a few) in your diet – their nutrients are an added bonus .
(b) Simultaneously boost your electrolyte intake.
Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc.) are in charge of maintaining a healthy water balance within and outside our cells. Both sweating and drinking a lot of water can dilute our electrolyte-levels, and disrupt this balance . The solution is to simply boost your electrolytes intake along with your water intake. Look for naturally electrolyte-rich drinks like coconut water and fresh lemonade when you’re hydrating.
#3: Cut down on caffeinated beverages and, especially, alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, i.e., they increase the amount of water and salt that’s expelled from our body [8, 9]. Moderate amounts of coffee and tea only lead to mild effects that can be easily countered by consuming a bit more water or even the water in our foods .
Alcohol, on the other hand, expels an incredible amount of water (a large reason behind the throbbing headache and general suffering that arrives the next day) . Consuming alcohol in the summer (especially outdoors) should be limited as far as possible, and compensated for by drinking at least a glass of water for every drink [12, 13].
#4: Don’t completely avoid the sun
It’s natural to seek shelter in the heat, but try not to totally avoid the sun, either – that’s where we get our vitamin D from.
Although certain foods (like salmon, tuna, egg yolks, cheese, and shitake mushrooms) contain vitamin D, it’s present in limited quantities. Sunlight is the most efficient way for us to increase our blood levels of vitamin D, apart from supplementation.
The sun’s rays are best sought between 11 am to 2 pm. It’s also a good idea to keep one’s arms and legs bared while getting out into direct sunlight, and to be under it for about 30 minutes twice a week .
#5: Avoid eating uncooked foods with questionable freshness
Cooked and uncooked foods, together, give us a great range of nutrients and should both be included in our regular diet.
That said, the raw food tends to spoil at a much faster pace during the summer (being conducive to the growth of bacteria), making it a good idea to eat only if its freshness is guaranteed. It’s especially best to stick to cooked foods at a restaurant if their hygiene standards are questionable .
#6: Make your food colourful (with plants)
All year-round, but especially during the summer, our skin needs to be protected from the sun’s harsh rays. Otherwise, the UVA and UVB rays of the sun penetrate through the skin, creating free radicals, which create havoc .
Beyond protecting our skin externally through broad-spectrum sunscreens, we can also adopt a highly underrated skincare solution that lies in the food we eat: antioxidants.
(a) Consume plenty of vitamins C and E
These make up our body’s natural antioxidant system, which needs to be replenished, daily. Consume foods like almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, citrus fruits, berries, mangoes, bell peppers, etc. to make sure you’re getting enough .
(b) Eat the rainbow!
Fruits and vegetables have powerful antioxidants, with each colour providing a different type that comes with its own set of benefits. For example, carotenoids are found in yellow, red, and orange fruits and vegetables (being the pigments that give them their colour), and are especially effective in preventing UV damage to the skin when consumed. Lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes and other red fruits/vegetables is a great example of this, and also gives our skin a healthy colour [18, 19].
While it isn’t always possible to avoid the summer sun, its consequences are completely in our control. A few simple shifts in our routine is all it takes to stay healthy, even through the heat.