The heat is on: Six foods to help you keep your cool this summer

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Steve Peters
RUTLAND BITES

We’re not even through the month of June and we’ve already seen more than a few days of sweltering heat. When that kind of weather sets in, not only do I have little interest in firing up the oven, I’ve noticed that my appetite decreases as the humidity rises. No matter how many times I rummage through the fridge and pantry, I just can’t seem to find something appetizing. And by not eating I end up decreasing my energy and productivity.

On one hand, maybe this isn’t the worst way to shed a few pounds. On the other hand, I hate feeling lethargic. I also can’t realistically take a nap every hot afternoon.

I’ve learned that attempting to compensate for a lack of food with excessive amounts of iced coffee is not the solution, as it only adds sensations of nausea. This really has me wondering how people function in actual warm-weather climates. As unbearable as winter can be here at times, at least I have no problem eating or drinking my coffee during the cold.

Luckily, our Vermont heat waves don’t typically last for too long before things cool back down. Nevertheless, we could still use some reprieve during these humid days. It turns out that there are certain foods that can help cool us down on the inside, even when it’s hotter than we may like on the outside.

Who needs air conditioning? Here are six foods experts say we should eat to beat the heat.

Melon

Melons are ninety-five percent water. They’re refreshing, easy to eat and also happen to be high in essential vitamins to keep us going. For a cold snack, purée melon in a blender then freeze in popsicle molds, cups or jars. Mix in other flavors, such as chopped mint leaves, yogurt or berries. Freeze until solid and you’ve got yourself homemade popsicles without the sugar bomb.

Mint

We don’t often think of the benefit fresh herbs can provide us. Yet we may want to keep mint in mind this summer. Mint comes with natural cooling sensations, of course, but there’s more to it than that. Mint can help stimulate the digestive system and turn food into energy. The next time your appetite has escaped you, try having a glass of iced mint tea. You can use the fresh leaves to brew a pitcher of hot tea, then add ice and store in the fridge. Or add several mint leaves to your next fruit smoothie. Considering that mint may also help ease nausea, relieve allergies and improve mental alertness, you might want to keep some handy all year long.

Cucumbers

Also with a high water content, cucumbers are excellent at helping to keep us hydrated. And if we know nothing else about what to do when it’s hot out, we know we need to remain hydrated. One of my favorite ways to eat fresh summer cucumbers is with some vinegar and salt. I just slice or chop them up, toss them with the salt and vinegar — any kind will do — and dig in. Or if I have some fresh dill handy, I mix them with a little olive oil and chopped dill. I never seem to have a problem eating cucumbers, and they’re always light and refreshing.

Coconut water

Commercial sports and vitamin drinks are full of additives and sugar. Pure coconut water, on the other hand, can be found just as easily. It has natural electrolytes and antioxidants we could all use to get us through a heat wave. The lauric acid in coconut water stimulates the thyroid and increases your metabolic rate.

Leafy greens

Just as with melons and cucumbers, leafy green vegetables are also high in water and easy to digest. When our digestive system has less work to do, it uses less energy and puts out less heat. Leafy greens, especially the darker green ones, also happen to be packed with nutrients. Salads are the obvious way to eat your greens, but don’t stop there.

Spicy foods & peppers

I’ve read mixed things about the impact of spicy foods on cooling the body. They cause us to feel warming sensations as we eat them, but they may also cause us to sweat. And as we know, sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself down. Considering the number of cultures living in warm weather climates where spicy foods play an important role in the cuisine, I’m going to suggest at least giving spicy foods a try at cooling.

Steve Peters

Steve Peters is a cook, gardener and baker living in Rutland.

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