Summer is officially here, although warming temperatures beat the official start of summer to the punch in much of the country. The heat is here. If you haven't done it already, it's time to tweak your diets and menus to accommodate the heat and your body's need for regular hydration to counter increased fluid loss through sweating. On top of that, most weight-conscious people see summertime as the right time to drop excess pounds, something to keep in mind when picking out what foods to eat. The summer will likely continue to get hotter well into August. Plus, that extra time we spend outside enjoying the balmier weather also usually means an increased sapping of energy levels, even if we aren't participating in high-energy activities such as swimming, running, hiking, biking or beach volleyball. What our bodies need now more than ever is a diet that will keep us hydrated and cool while also maintaining our energy levels in a robust state. Easier said than done, right, manipulating our food choices wisely and healthily so as to make summertime the fun and active time of year that we envisioned five or six months ago? That's when we were sitting by the fireplace, trying to stay warm and wishing we were in the middle of summer. Well, here we are.
Some Ancient GuidanceGood advice for this time of year comes from the ancient science of natural health, Ayurveda. For centuries, it has told us that the key to good health is staying in balance, to include how we manage our diets. Ayurvedic science identifies three basic types of energy foundational to the material world – vata (wind energy), pitta (fire energy) and kapha – otherwise known as the three doshas. Every aspect of nature, per mindbodygreen.com, is a combination of these three – including the seasons. . . . Summertime is Pitta season, and Pitta affects metabolism, digestion and all heat in mind, body and environment.
Hydration is KeyThis bears repeating, which is what we just did. There's recently been a lot of interesting research about how hydration affects our mind, our mood, memory and learning, thinking and reaction time, says sports dietician Kim Larsen, quoted at weather.com. Even if you're just mildly dehydrated, it can lead to mood changes and fatigue.
Dietary Suggestions for the SummertimeAs tempting as it is to feast on hotdogs, nachos and fries at the ballpark, or buckets of fried chicken and ice cream at the beach, or buttered-up lobster tails and filet mignon (surf and turf?) at the vacation spot's posh restaurant, too much of a good thing will likely end up giving you the summertime blues. Following are a dandy dozen suggestions of food choices well suited for this time of year, in many cases as garnishments. If you search a bit, you might find some recipes that make use of two or more of these to make the heat a bit more bearable:
- Cantaloupe. Grab a spoon and dig in. This watery fruit is loaded with vitamins A and C as well as a compound known as adenosine, which is good for the heart, per weather.com.
- Radishes. Really? Yes, really; radishes are a rich source of riboflavin, fiber, calcium and magnesium.
- Broccoli. Don't push it away; it's 91 percent water.
- Zucchini. See broccoli, only better. Raw, it's 95 percent water. Bonuses: low in calories, and loaded with Vitamin C and manganese.
- Cucumber. Make it the centerpiece of chilled soup, complete with hemp oil, to cool you down. Recipe courtesy of blog.paleohacks.com.
- Fruit salad. Don't worry – it's not what you think. This version, also courtesy of blog.paleohacks.com, combines watermelon and avocado salad, with cucumber and coconut kefir mixed in.
- Onions. They have amazing cooling properties, per timesofindia.indiatimes.com, In high quantity, they can provide protection against sunstroke.
- Lime water. Drinking it improves digestion by helping our saliva to break down food. Also, its supply of flavonoids stimulates the secretion of digestive juices.
- Ice cream. That's right, your sight is fine. It's OK once in a while; add some chopped-up fresh fruit to lessen the guilt.
- Berries. To be more specific, think blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Each consists of 85 percent or more of water. Berries have an abundance of anthocyanins, which can reduce post-workout inflammation and joint pain.
- Lettuce. You have a choice here: iceberg lettuce weighs in at 96 percent water, while romaine lettuce, although not quite as wet as the iceberg variety, counterpunches as more nutritious, per active.com.