Malcolm McDowell Woods
Simply Health

Cool it

By - Jun 1st, 2009 12:00 am

The phrase “cool as a cucumber” is not without merit. Did you know that cucumbers really are cool? It’s true! It’s much cooler inside a cucumber than outside, with an inner temperature up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. Although, once it is picked, the cucumber loses its power to keep its cool. You can be sure I will be out in the garden with my thermometer this summer to confirm this! Cucumbers are also 96 percent water by weight; another cool factor! It’s no wonder they cool you down and are considered to be one of the most cooling foods of summer.

Are there other foods that can cool you down on those hot summer days? Yes! Just like some clothes can keep us warm in the winter and others cooler in the summer, there are foods that warm you in the winter and foods that cool you in the summer. Eating seasonally is not only economical, but a way for us to stay in balance with our environment.

Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioners have long recommended that the summer diet be different from the winter diet. Heavier winter foods with more fat and protein are required to guard against the cold. But just think of it … a Thanksgiving feast doesn’t seem too appetizing in the middle of summer.

Summer is the easiest time to lose weight because your body doesn’t require a heavy food intake, and even Wisconsinites can exercise outdoors – an opportunity to get slimmer that will pay off year-round!

Foods grown in the summer are often rich in water content and easier to digest, which helps to keep our bodies cool. This includes lighter fare such as celery, watermelon, melons, apples (and many other fruits), berries, leafy greens, peas, green beans, summer squash and cucumbers. An added bonus is that these foods are high in fiber and low in calories. A few herbs such as dill and cilantro can also be cooling in salads, and don’t forget the refreshing option of mint leaves added to a glass of water or lemonade.

On hot summer days you sweat more – our body’s natural way of regulating it’s internal temperature. Moisture from inside our bodies moves to the outside in hopes that it will evaporate and have a cooling effect. On days of higher humidity this mechanism can’t work as well and we perspire so much more, meaning we need to drink enough water to replace the water we’re losing.

As much as you’d like that nice cold beer on a hot summer afternoon, water is by far a better choice to cool you down. Alcohol is a diuretic and can cause dehydration – just what you want to avoid on those hot steamy days. Unfortunately, beer has the strongest diuretic effect – anyone who has ever had a hangover knows about the dry mouth the morning after. Not good to news to us Milwaukeeans! Maybe you’ll have to settle for an O’Doul’s or a mocktail. In any case, drinking more water will replenish your water losses.

I’ve heard it said that spicy foods can cool you down. That doesn’t seem logical and I personally don’t know since I can’t tolerate anything spicy. But here’s the scoop. One reason for this might be the phenomenon called “gustatory facial sweating,” which is common after eating hot peppers, according to Luke LaBorde, a professor of food science at Penn State University. If you perspire from eating spicy foods and find yourself in a breeze, then your body will cool by evaporative cooling. Give it a try!

Juicy foods tend to be more cooling and most often are rich sources of potassium; a nutrient you may deplete through sweating. While water-rich foods like vegetables and fruits seem an obvious part of your summer diet, you might be surprised to learn that legumes, wheat, barley, rice and seafood are also easily digested and considered cooling foods.

Take into consideration that when the weather is hot, you benefit from eating small meals and by avoiding high protein dishes which increase metabolism and thereby raise body temperature.

I know this is the grilling season, but you can make it a cool one. Compliment your burgers or brats with the best foods to keep you cool. Include a large green salad with onions, cucumbers, broccoli and tomatoes, a potato salad with a lemon vinaigrette, and a cold pitcher of water with cucumber, lemon and lime slices. I suppose if I tell you to have watermelon slices for dessert, this may just sound too healthy, so if you prefer to make it a cool slice of cheesecake, go ahead… just don’t let me know!


This web site offers information on food and disease, and Western and traditional Chinese medicine. The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine:

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