Are you eating the best cooling foods to beat the summer heat? I’ve always been a sun-worshipper, a lover of Summer, a tropical traveler. But now that we are living in Mexico where the thermometer the humidity regularly hit the high 90’s°. Ugh, it’s with much dismay that I’ve realized my body may not dig 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 30 years was “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”. And 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 still holding out hope that my body will eventually acclimate, after eight years I’m doubtful. So 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 may seem counter-intuitive, spicy-hot foods can actually help you cool down. Here’s how: 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. So it’s no coincidence that our favorite spicy dishes come from hotter latitudes. The natives of Central and South America, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia know how to keep cool! So take a page out of their cookbooks and cook up some delicious, spicy meals this summer to help you cool down too.
But what if your idea of cooling down doesn’t include spicy-hot food? That’s alright too, here are a few cool and refreshing foods you can try.
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. Check out my super-refreshing Cucumber Watermelon Lime Mint Cooler Recipe below. Or make a cold butternut squash or cucumber-cellery soup.
- Mint and peppermint are very cooling herbs. So try adding a few sprigs 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. Also, it’s best to 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 it also provides many natural 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 also sound counter-intuitive, but just like the spicy foods mentioned above, 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. To beat the heat, we drink 3-4 quart-size mason jars full of hibiscus or peppermint tea. Or water with a squeeze of lime and some Dr. Bergs electrolyte mix, each day.
Who loves watermelon?
Watermelon Lime Mint Cooler
- 1 Vitamix or heavy-duty blender
- 10 ice cubes
- 4 cups seedless watermelon cubed
- 1 large cucumber peeled, seeded, 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, freeze the watermelon cubes overnight.
- 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 from the heat, 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 equals 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, LOL, 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. (Note: never put ice-cold water/towels on a hot pet, they can go into shock, so be sure to use room-temperature water. The evaporation process will cool them enough.) 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 six 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…