July 19, 2018

Keeping cool: 6 foods that help

When the weather is hot, it’s a challenge to stay cool. But did you know food can make a difference? Here are my top 6 spices and foods to help you stay cool when the temperatures rise.

1. Watermelon

How it keeps you cool: Watermelon is more than 90% water, which helps you stay hydrated. Generally, the more water in a food, the better it is at keeping your temperature down. When you’re hydrated, your digestion works more efficiently, which helps keep you cool.

How to pick and prepare: Choose a watermelon that is heavy, dark green and dull (shiny can mean it is not ripe), and look for the “field spot.” This is a creamy, yellow spot where the melon sat on the ground to ripen. If the spot is small or white, it is likely not ripe. When you select your perfect watermelon, just slice and enjoy!

2. Cinnamon

How it keeps you cool: Studies have shown that cinnamon can reduce stomach temperature during digestion.

How you can up your intake: To maximize the health benefits, buy cinnamon sticks and grate over your favorite dish. Cinnamon is a versatile spice and can be added to most baking recipes, fruits, coffee, or tea.

3. Spicy Foods

How they keep you cool: This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s true. Spicy foods can make you sweat, and when sweat evaporates, it cools on your skin. In fact, people who live closer to the equator often eat more spicy foods, in part because of this temperature control mechanism.

Which spices you should eat: Adding spices such as fresh ginger, cayenne, and red chili to your meals can help provide that cool feeling. Many of these spices work together to help our bodies better absorb and make use of their benefits.

4. Cucumber

How it keeps you cool: Like watermelon, cucumbers also have a very high water content — almost 97% — which makes it the ideal summer veggie for staying hydrated and cool (as a cucumber). It also has minimal sugar and fat.

How to pick and prepare: Choose a cucumber with a bright, even skin color that is not dull and does not have any sweating, blemishes, or soft spots. You can enjoy cucumbers by themselves, with hummus, smashed, or in a chilled soup.

5. Cardamom

How it keeps you cool: Cardamom, sometimes known as elaichi, is a common Indian spice used in cooking. It contains numerous antioxidants including cineole, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that has been shown to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to a decrease in body heat.

How you can up your intake: Cardamom can be found in pods or seeds. To maximize the flavor and effectiveness, buy and grind the seed as you need it. Cardamom can be used in sweet and savory dishes. Try cardamom tea, add it to coffee, infuse it with water, or include it in a healthy dessert.

6. Peppermint

How it keeps you cool: Peppermint is rich in the compound menthol. Menthol stimulates coldness receptors in the skin, producing a cooling sensation. In the United Kingdom, researchers found that peppermint oil was “extremely helpful” in decreasing symptoms of hot flashes caused by breast cancer treatment.

How you can up your intake: Add it to soups, salad dressing, fruit salads, teas, or lemonades.

There are many more spices and foods that help keep you cool when it’s hot outside. Think about these cooling foods next time you fill your plate (or cup or bowl) when it’s toasty outside!

Contributor: Silvia Delgado, RD