7 foods to help you beat the heat

Photo: iStockphoto.com/VYG
Fresh, fabulous tasting and sure to help take the sweat out of summer eating, these 7 summer chillers are good for you too!

As the days of summer get longer and warmer, it can seem nearly impossible at times to keep cool in the blistering heat. Staying cool can depend on much more than icy-chilled beverages and air conditioning, and the foods you eat can absolutely lend a hand. Luckily for us, it's difficult to think of a more joyful time for eating than summer. From ripe and juicy berries to plump and bursting cherry tomatoes, this vibrant season enjoys a particularly abundant and colourful array of fresh and seasonal foods. An added bonus? Many seasonal summer fruits and vegetables are simply superb for helping us lower our body temperature to stay cool and refreshed, despite the soaring temperatures! Here are 3 cool fruits and chilled out veggies that will help you stay energized and cool—even when the heat turns up.

Cool Fruits

Fruits that have a high water content, and are loaded with essential nutrients and antioxidants, are your best bet for staying cool this summer. These include grapes, apples, pears, peaches, berries, dragon fruit and star fruit, but especially watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon as well as citrus fruits like oranges. Fruits can be incorporated into your diet in so many different ways. Simply toss them into a summery salad, whiz them with milk or yogurt for a healthy smoothie or eat them raw for a mid-morning snack.

Watermelon

Nothing screams summer-time like a big wedge of watermelon. A long-time child favorite, it’s time to bring this summer staple back into your diet. Watermelon is made up of 90 percent water, which assists in keeping you well-hydrated in the heat. In addition, watermelon contains loads of vitamins A and C, has no fat and is packed with lycopene, an antioxidant which may aid in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Try it:
Toss cubes of watermelon with crumbled feta, a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of fresh basil leaves for a grown up and heat-blasting salad.

Cantaloupe and Honeydew Melon

Other melons also bring with them a large amount of water, helping us stay hydrated in the high temperatures. Cantaloupe and honeydew melons are both very low in calories and high in potassium. Although not a rich source of other nutrients, their low protein, fat and carbohydrates ratio makes them ideal for weight loss, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disorders. Melons are also considered to be a diuretic, which may help rid our bodies of unwanted toxins.
Try it:
Purée cantaloupe or honeydew melon to make a chilled summer soup. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche and some torn mint leaves for an optimum cooling effect.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits, including oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, are among the most cooling of all fruits. Aside from their delicious taste, citrus fruits can keep you healthy and looking younger. Citrus is considered a superfood for healthy skin due to its wide array of phytonutrients that function as antioxidants, including flavanones, anthocyanins, polyphenols and vitamin C. Citrus is also considered to be especially important in digestion as it helps aid in the breakdown of rich and fatty foods.
Try it:
Start every day with a tall glass of chilled lemon water. This slightly acidic drink helps to cleanse your system and energize your body.

Chilled Out Veggies

There is an abundant supply of vegetables that can help lower body temperature when the heat soars. The best examples are cucumber, radishes, lettuce and leafy greens such as spinach and arugula, and fresh herbs such as mint. They all contain a significant amount of water and can actually thin the blood and assist your body in releasing heat, which has a cooling effect. There are a myriad of ways to incorporate these vegetables into your diet. Simply toss them into a vibrant summer salad, wrap them in rice paper to create Thai-inspired veggie rolls or purée them into a cooling gazpacho.

Cucumber

Whoever said the words “cool as a cucumber” was right. Cucumber’s especially high water content, coupled with its fresh and crunchy taste, make it a perfect summer veggie. Cucumber has long been praised for its medicinal properties. It has a diuretic property (especially helpful in the dry summer months), which acts to flush toxins out of the body and maintain healthy tissue and skin. Cucumber is extremely low in calories and has minimal amounts of sugar, carbohydrates and fats. It contains significant amounts of vitamin B, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and other minerals.
Try it:
Use sliced cucumber as a sandwich or burger topper or whip into a fast and delicious spread with yogurt, lemon and mint.

Radishes

Radishes are sadly underrated. With their beautiful reddish-purple skin and white, crispy and tasty interior, these little summer gems certainly don't get enough credit! Radishes have a very high water content and are a great source of vitamin C, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also a rich source of potassium, which can help lower your risk of kidney stones and stroke and minerals like sulphur, iron and iodine.
Try it:
One of my favorite ways to use the "ruby" of summer is to slice thinly and toss into a leafy green or cold pasta salad.

Mint

Both mint and peppermint have amazing cooling and relaxing properties, and their brisk aroma has the ability to chase away sluggishness when the heat soars. They have long been used by herbalists to create herbal teas, balms, ointments and other products, which can soothe your mind and body. Additionally, mint helps relieve both indigestion and inflammation, which can plague us during the hot summer months.
Try it:
Make your own peppermint iced tea by steeping green tea bags in boiling water, then chilling. Add sugar, slices of lemon, and a bunch of peppermint for a cool treat.

More Simple Tips To Help You Cool Down this Summer: Eat Raw

When the heat turns up, who wants to be in the kitchen? Luckily for us, raw fruits and veggies are the perfect summer-time food and absolutely delicious with little or no preparation. If you must cook, focus on fast cooking methods including steaming, blanching and sautéing.

Spice it Up

It's not a coincidence that many people in hotter regions of the world eat spicy food. A moderate amount of spicy flavours, such as fresh ginger, red chili, cayenne and black pepper, initially warm you up, but actually help cool you down. Try adding a pinch of red chili flakes to your grilled fish or chicken marinade or create a cooling vinaigrette with grated fresh ginger, sesame oil, soy and rice wine vinegar.

Choose Your Liquids Wisely

Keeping fully hydrated by drinking plenty of water is paramount importance the hot summer months. Many symptoms of excess summer heat (dizziness, fatigue, lack of concentration) are attributable to chronic dehydration. However, the type of liquid you drink has been shown to be important.

Sport beverages (laden with sodium and sugar) can actually make your dehydration worse, and extremely cold foods and drinks (like ice cream) can actually interfere with digestion and sweating, the body's natural cooling mechanism. So, however tempting it may be to sit on your porch licking an ice cream cone to beat the heat, opt for a wedge of melon instead. A dose of common sense and a diet sprinkled with cooling foods is your best bet for helping you stay comfortable this summer. Now all you have to do is apply your sunscreen and enjoy the lazy days!