When a heat wave strikes, air conditioners are our best friends. A few degrees will make your home or apartment bearable, while the lowest settings will turn your place into an ice cave. If you’re elderly, AC can even save your life. But for organic living enthusiasts, it’s a little different. Every time you reach for the dial, you must also endure a lecture from the conscientious little angel perched upon your right shoulder. You hate to waste energy, and AC uses a lot of it. The devil on your left can chill out in a cartoonish igloo all day, drinking tall iced teas and smacking his lips, and you’re not gonna respond, right?
What you’re gonna do is this. You’re going to prepare your body for the dog days of August so that less AC is necessary, and you’re going to do it by exploring foods that cool. You see, the right foods and beverages will help push your internal temperature low when you need it most, while the wrong ones will force your system to overheat when you can least afford it. Pick a food tip or two from our list below and try it out. See if you can adjust your body’s thermostat so that you’re comfortable enough to cut back on energy-heavy chilling methods.
3 Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave With Foods That Cool
1. Stay hydrated. If we look at our bodies in an absurdly deconstructionist way, we’re all just big jars of water (think nine or ten gallons) with assorted extras. Now, think about pouring one of those ten-gallon jars into a giant soup pot. It would take quite a while to heat up on the stove, right? But when the pot isn’t quite full, it takes less time. The point is that summer temperatures can dramatically lower your body’s water content, which can affect how warm we feel. Researchers have actually recorded sweat rates of over three gallons a day.
But everyone knows how important it is to stay hydrated on very hot days. What many people don’t know is that fresh fruits and vegetables can help. Cucumbers, melons, leafy vegetables, tomatoes and celery are all filled with water, and adding more of these to your diet will help replenish fluid lost in the heat of the day. Organic living fans will also be happy to know that all that produce will help restore lost electrolytes, and that’s important, because when your electrolyte levels become unbalanced, your ability to thermoregulate goes downhill fast.
Also important? Avoiding foods and beverages that cause you to lose water quickly. These substances are called diuretics, and in warm weather they can cause rapid dehydration by increasing urine production. Caffeinated sodas, teas, coffees and alcoholic beverages are all natural diuretics, so cut back on those when the weather is hot. Foods like asparagus, fennel and artichoke also have diuretic properties.
2. Be wise about frozen foods. Common sense tells you that if you rummage through your freezer, you’re bound to find some foods that cool. Before you reach for that pint of Ben & Jerry’s, though, take heed: ice cream might actually be counterproductive when you’re searching for heat relief. All of the protein and fat in ice cream might make it extra-delicious, but it also makes it extra-difficult to digest. Your body expends energy to break down the ingredients, and that revs up your metabolism and heats you up.
That doesn’t mean your freezer is useless, though. To cool off in a hurry, you can just stick your head in there for a while. But our favorite summer food tip involves turning your favorite fruits into icy treats. Frozen grapes and berries are like tiny bombs of chilly goodness – they work well as breakfast, snacks or dessert, and can even be used as flavorful ice cube replacements in your favorite beverage. Frozen bananas are another healthy chilled treat.
3. Rethink hot-weather meals. Nobody wants to crank up their oven or stovetop in triple-digit heat, but mealtime without baking, broiling or frying normally involves a call to your favorite pizza joint. With careful planning, you can find healthy, homemade alternatives that will keep your stomach, as well as your kitchen, cool as a cucumber.
Salads make for great warm-weather meals, as do cold soups like gazpacho. When you make these dishes, you’re not only avoiding the stove, you’re rehydrating like a champion too. There’s also ceviche, cold noodle dishes from Vietnam or Japan and Thai spring rolls. But maybe you want to make a bigger dinner, or maybe you’re throwing a party. If so, look to the Middle East for foods that cool: some pita bread with a bit of tabbouleh, baba ghannoush, hummus and labneh is impressive, filling and low in temperature.
Any food tip that helps you stay cool and hydrated during a heat wave is going to decrease your reliance on expensive and environmentally unfriendly methods of cooling. That’s a big plus for organic living enthusiasts and for anyone who’s interested in sustainable living. Most foods that cool naturally are also extremely healthy, so these dietary changes will be good for your long-term wellness too. You’ll probably still be looking forward to a dip in the pool every now and then, but don’t be surprised if these dietary changes help you sleep easier when summer hits hardest.
What are your favorite foods that cool? List some tips below to help other readers beat the rising temperatures!