Hot food to cool down
On a hot, sweaty summer day, you probably crave popsicles and ice cream bars – but they’re not the only foods that can cool you down.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, hot food and drinks (both in temperature and spice level) can help your body cool off.
“Hot and spicy food can cool the body through a process called gustatory facial sweating,” explains Trista Best, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. “This is essentially when spicy food causes you to sweat, starting in the face first, which then cools the body.”
Exactly how the process works is not entirely agreed upon, however, she says. Some experts believe the food raises the internal body temperature first, which triggers sweating, but others disagree. However, both sides do agree spicy foods create a cooling effect by causing the body to sweat – which is the body’s mechanism for cooling itself down.
So on really hot days, try some spicy food or hot coffee or tea to cool down, suggests Dr. William Li, renowned physician, scientist and author of Eat To Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. He points out that spicy foods are often popular in countries with hot climates.
The key is to get a bit sweaty. You can try loading up on your favourite steamy beverage, or hot dishes like this spicy pork stir fry or these spicy tacos.
And if you’re in a slurping mood, Hiro Mitsui, founder and executive chef at Washington D.C.’s Ramen by Uzu, recommends a bowl of ramen. He remembers walking through food stalls in Japan, where people eat hot noodle dishes year-round, and ordering spicy ramen for dinner on warm evenings.
Don’t forget your water
Above all, however, the most important thing you can do on hot days is hydrate. A great way to monitor your water consumption is the new water tracker in the WW app!
“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate in the hot summer months,” says Li. That’s the most important thing you can do.”
All that sweat you’re releasing while eating that spicy food is fluid that has to be replaced in the body – and water is the best replacement option. And while you can, of course, drink your water, you can also eat it.
“Eat foods that contain lots of natural liquid,” Li says. “Cucumbers, peaches, melon, mango, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, or a cold soup like gazpacho are great choices.”
Li also recommends avoiding heavy meals and overeating in the summer months. “Digestion increases your metabolism, which generates heat,” he explains, “so the more you eat, the hotter you get.”
Some ideas if you’d rather stick with cool foods
Sylvia Melendez-Klinger also likes to keep it light when it comes to summer dining.
“When the hot summer days arrive, I make a conscious effort to keep the oven off and keep the stove to minimum use,” says Melendez-Klinger, DBA, MS, RD, CPT, founder of Hispanic Food Communications and scientific advisory board member for the Grain Foods Foundation.
If you can’t deal with steaming bowls of ramen in the middle of a heat wave or just don’t like spicy stuff, here are a few ideas for keeping things nice and cool.
Prep fruit and veg
“I always keep seasonal fruits such as peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon, mangos, et cetera already cut up in the refrigerator so I can grab them in between meals or to add them to a quick meal,” says Melendez-Klinger. “I also do the same with veggies, cold cucumbers, sliced and marinated in rice vinegar and a little sugar ... amazing. But I also love to cut jicama, carrots and bell peppers and [sprinkle them] with lime juice.” If you’re game for an extra kick, she suggests adding a sprinkling of chili, too.
Try cold meals
“Right now, I am obsessed with buddha bowls,” says Melendez-Klinger. “I start with grains – pasta, grains or rice as the foundation, then [load them] with fresh cut up veggies, paired with your favourite protein – beans, tofu, fish or other meat topped with a delicious dressing. ... Cold grain salads made with a quinoa, wheat berries or potato base are another go-to for cold meals every summer because they provide plenty of nutrients.”
And you can always swap out that spicy ramen for a cold soup. Melendez-Klinger says gazpacho with crusty croutons, strawberry soup with cheese on toast, and cantaloupe- or cucumber-based soups are at the top of her list.