Are you eating the best cooling foods to beat the summer heat? I’ve always been a sun worshiper, a lover of Summer, a tropical traveler. But now that we are living in Mexico where the thermometer regularly hits 104°… it is with much dismay that I’m realizing my body may not actually be digging the heat as much as I do. 🙁
How can this be?! I waited my whole life to live somewhere warm, to not be freezing cold—my husband’s motto for the past 25 years has been “A warm Heidi is a Happy Heidi.” Ok, warm is one thing, but hot is altogether different. And it’s not just Mexico, climate change is happening around the globe, and many towns and cities are now several degrees hotter than they ever used to be.
Does Your Body Love Summer as Much as You Do?
Sadly, my body is rebelling in the heat…my energy is zapped, my feet and ankles are swollen from “heat induced edema”, my clothes are soaking wet with sweat within 20 minutes of dressing…this from someone who never broke a sweat at the gym before!? While I’m hopeful my body will eventually acclimate, I’ve embraced all things that help me keep cool in the meantime.
If this sounds like you, I have some tips to help you keep cool too, like my favorite cooling foods to beat the summer heat.
How Spicy-Hot Foods Help You Cool Down
There are a couple of ways to look at “cooling foods.” Though it seems counter-intuitive, spicy-hot foods can actually help you cool down. Warming spices help to dilate your blood vessels increasing circulation and sweat, which is your body’s own mechanism for cooling off. As all that sweat evaporates, it not only cools you off, it helps to detox your body as well. Is it a coincidence that our favorite spicy dishes come from hotter latitudes like Central and South America, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia? Take a page out of their cookbooks and cook up some spicy meals this summer to cool down.
So maybe your idea of cooling down doesn’t include spicy-hot food? Ok, here are a few cool and refreshing foods to try as well:
Cooling Foods to Beat the Summer Heat
- Eat your fruits and veggies. Most fruits and bitter leafy greens will help you cool down, plus their high water content will help you stay hydrated while you sweat. Try making a salad full of bitter leafy greens like kale, chard, and arugula, with some cucumber, celery, jicama, and a squeeze of lime for a great cool down.
- Members of the melon and squash families, like watermelon and cucumber, are especially cooling foods. Melons contain 90% water so they’ll help you stay hydrated. Try my Cucumber Watermelon Lime Mint Cooler Recipe below, or make a cold butternut squash or cucumber soup.
- Mint and peppermint are very cooling, add some to your water or drink hot or iced peppermint tea. (Ironically I used to avoid drinking peppermint tea because it was so cooling, I always opted for warming ginger tea instead. Now, however, I’m drinking peppermint tea by the gallons!)
- Iced Hibiscus tea with lime juice makes a refreshingly cool drink too. Drink your iced tea with a little bit of ice, but not icy-cold. Really cold drinks can shock your digestive system making it harder to digest food, plus they can actually constrict your capillaries, making you hotter overall not cooler.
- Coconut water is cooling to your system and also provides many electrolytes to help replenish your body after you’ve been sweating a lot.
- Add cooling herbs like cilantro, basil, mint, and fennel, to your meals as well.
- Drink a cup of hot coffee. This may sound counter-intuitive, but like the spicy foods, it actually helps open up your capillaries and cool you down, whereas a glass of iced coffee can have the opposite effect. My husband Kirk has been doing this for years, now studies show he was right all along!
- Stay hydrated with plenty of water and fresh produce. In humid weather, you sweat more because the sweat doesn’t evaporate as fast as in dry weather, so your body keeps on sweating to try to cool you off. We drink 3-4 quart-size mason jars full of water with a little fruit in it (watermelon, cucumber, lime), hibiscus tea or peppermint tea each day.
Cucumber Watermelon Lime Mint Cooler
The ingredients for this Cucumber Lime Watermelon Mint Cooler recipe are easily found at any mercado in Mexico. They are also readily available in the US during the summer months, so stock up on these delicious, healthy ingredients and pull out your Vitamix to help you beat the heat!
10 ice cubes
4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup mint leaves + extra for garnish (or try with basil)
3 limes, juiced + extra for garnish
1/2 cup filtered water
Put ingredients into Vitamix or other high-powered blender in the order listed. Blend on high until desired consistency. Use more ice for a slushier drink, or for a really slushy treat you can freeze the watermelon cubes overnight.
Serves 4, garnish with a couple of mint leaves and a lime wedge.
Enjoy this refreshing drink while you check out a few other ways to keep cool besides eating cooling foods to beat the summer heat:
Non-food Ideas to Help Beat the Heat
- It may also sound counter-intuitive to end your cool shower with a blast of warm water, but the same principle holds in your shower as with the coffee. With open capillaries, the body can send more blood to the skin surface to help it cool down. A warm shower will help dilate your capillaries and keep you cool throughout the day. Taking an ice-cold shower can actually constrict your capillaries making you warmer. [The converse is true in winter, to keep yourself warm end your shower with a blast of cold water. Studies have also shown a cold shower blast boosts your immune system.]
- Soak your hands and feet in cold water, run cold water on your pulse points (wrists, inside of elbows, back of neck, back of knees) or use a cold compress on these pulse points. With more open capillaries, your body can send up to three times the amount of blood to the surface of your skin to help cool you. After a minute or so of cold water on your pulse points, you can actually feel cooler blood run through your veins. Pretty cool, literally!
- Spritz your face with a facial spritzer like Neal’s Yard Remedies White Tea Facial Mist for a refreshing cool-down. I keep mine in the fridge for an extra cool treat.
- Wear a wide-brim hat, use a sun-brella, walk on the shady side of the street… Light=Heat. In my former life, I used to seek out the sunny side of the street to keep warm, now I realize that the shady side is about 10° cooler than the sunny side, which makes a big difference in staying cool.
- Wear a wet t-shirt! Well, ok, maybe not outside our around the neighborhood :-), but when you’re at home (or on your boat) and it’s stifling hot out a wet t-shirt is a great cool-down tool. Wet clothing evaporates as it dries which helps to cool you down. We even put wet tea towels on our two cats to help them stay cool too. You’d think they’d mind, but they actually love it!
- Don’t forget fans…having airflow moving around, even if it’s warm air, will help you stay cooler than stagnant hot air. We currently have two fans up on our boat and are in the process of installing three more which should really help us beat the heat.
I hope sharing some of the ways we beat the heat has helped you too. Please leave a comment to let us know your favorite cooling foods to beat the summer heat or other favorite cooling tricks! Happy rest of summer…