Eat to Beat the Heat

Eat to Beat the HeatThe heat can hurt, so let’s change what we eat!

The temperatures are rising, and with longer, warmer days our bodies are going to need to adapt in more ways than one. Our normal habits of changing out our clothing, putting on more sunscreen, and seeking shade when outdoors is no longer enough. While we change our wardrobes for the change of seasons, very few of us think about changing what foods we stock in our kitchens.

What to eat in the sweltering heat? Ice cream and slushies may seem like the obvious choice, but what we really need is hydrating, cooling foods that don’t cause our bodies to heat up when they work to digest our last meal or snack. Our body needs foods to be at around 100 degrees to metabolize effectively. So when we eat cold and icy foods, our body has to produce more energy (heat) to warm it up. No matter the season, we need to focus on a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Food Recommendations to help cool us down:

A healthy diet for any climate should include hydrating foods in addition to plenty of good old H2O. Some great options that are naturally high in water content are:

  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, bok choy, dandelion greens, arugula, escarole and all other greens in season
  • Mung beans are used to help cool the body. Have some mung bean sprouts or in a soup or congee.
  • Avocado, celery, cucumber
  • All stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums), watermelon, all types of berries, tomato, lemon, and coconut or coconut water
  • Try lighter cooking styles such as steaming, poaching, lightly sauteing, have more salads and soups (which are so hydrating)
Herbs to cook with and add to beverages:
  • Another great addition to your summer diet is mint. This cooling herb contains menthol, which triggers protein sensory receptors in your mouth. In essence, it’s like the coolness of ice cream without the heat raising properties of digesting dairy.  Add mint to salads, water, teas and beverages (homemade lemonade with mint!).
  • Lemon balm is cooling and relaxing. It makes a great bedtime tea.
  • All edible flowers such as rose, lavender, jasmine, honeysuckle,nasturtium, violas are cooling and fragrant and add beauty to any meal. Use them in teas, beverages and salads.
Shifts to make in your every day eating when it is HOT!!!

When it is hot, we need to be able to adjust our internal temperature. so warm or room temperature liquids can be helpful.  What you want to avoid is excessive consumption of foods that will heat you up. No, this doesn’t mean you have to skip them altogether, but it’s good to be  mindful when consuming the following foods:

  • Excessive use of warming or hot spices like dried ginger, hot pepper and galangal.
  • Grilled meats — you don’t have to give up BBQ completely, but adding some citrus to the meat helps make it easier to digest or consider adding somegrilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, peppers, green onions with some cooling herbs) to that meal!
  • Processed foods, chips, and other foods high in sodium, which draws water from cells in your body (due to the high sodium) and makes dehydration worse.
Foods to beat the heatIn conclusion:

Food nourishes our body and supports our sense of well being. It is one of our best medicines, and we have it every day. In summer and extreme heat we want to take the burden off of our bodies so we can adjust and adapt. Enjoy the delicious  bounty of summer by fine tuning what you eat to meet the season and you will feel more comfortable. We can eat to beat the heat.

Happy summer eating!

Follow Ellen on Instagram @goldsmithellen. 

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Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith is a licensed and nationally board certified acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has been in the field of Asian medicine for the past 30 years, teaching, speaking and working with thousands of people to give them the resources, skills and tools they seek to improve the quality of their health and lives. Ellen is the author of the well respected book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health. She is on faculty at the National University of Natural Medicine’s College of Classical Chinese Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

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