Eat to Fight the Heat
By Nicole Laverty, Registered Dietician
Courtesy of mannapa.org
Record temperatures and humidity across the country has made getting cool the name of the game. While there is always air conditioning, the pool, or the good old-fashioned fan, there are other options to stay comfortable. What you eat and drink can make a big difference in regulating body temperature and make the difference from feeling hot and bothered to cool and comfortable.
On hot, humid days, muscles compete with the skin for blood circulation. When the outside temperature is hot, more blood flows near the skin to help disperse body heat and cool the body down, thus keeping your body’s temperature from rising to dangerous levels. But that can mean less blood reaches muscles, which then causes lethargy. It is imperative to drink plenty of fluids and eat cooling foods to help hydrate your muscles and skin in order to maintain a safe internal body temperature.
Instead of focusing on cooling the air around you to cool your body, these foods will help to cool your body temperature from the inside out. Here are some foods that can help:
On a hot, summer day, the first thing that most people reach for is an icy glass of cold water. Water is great at keeping the body cool and hydrated. Maximize your intake of foods that contain high levels of water to minimize the intense heating effects of the sun. Fresh and raw vegetables and fruits have high water content and should be incorporated into all of your meals and snacks. Watermelon, mango, cucumbers, celery, iceberg lettuce, and tomatoes are only a few to mention. This produce will hydrate the cells in your body and translate to a lower body temperature.
The term astringency describes the drying and sometimes puckering sensation that is experienced after tasting many red wines. Foods like lentils, beans, bananas, and grapes also contain an astringent molecule called tannin that gives these foods their “dryness.” When you consume astringent foods, the tissues of your body contract, or shrink, and increase the water absorption by the body. This absorption increases the water content in your cells, which, in turn, keeps your body temperature cooler.
Green, leafy vegetables
Greens are powerhouse vegetables packed with important vitamins and nutrients to keep your body healthy. They are also a great source of one particular mineral that helps to cool your body, calcium. Calcium works as a thermoregulator in your body which, as the term implies, helps to regulate your internal body temperature. Your body uses the calcium in these green leafy vegetables to help send signals between your body and your brain to help regulate your temperature efficiently.
Almost all whole grains contain high levels of magnesium, which has the ability to relax muscles and nerve cells as well as increase the consumption of calcium in the bloodstream, thus helping your body maintain a more constant body temperature. Besides 100% whole wheat, other whole grain sources include rye, spelt, and quinoa.
Can eating “hot” food keep you cool? This notion may seem like the complete opposite of what you should eat when you are already hot, but it is effective in making you feel cooler. If you look at food eaten in warmer climate countries, many of them have a good amount of spice and heat in their recipes. When consuming spicy ingredients, your body temperature increases, your pulse accelerates, and you tend to sweat more, which makes your feel cooler. The increase in body temperature can make you feel cooler by diminishing the difference between you and the surrounding air temperature.
Nicole Laverty is a Registered Dietician at mannapa.org, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization that provides food and nutrition education to those in need. Re-printed with permission.