Summer sizzle is on and blazing! The temperature has been scorching. My son and I were outside tooling around and within five minutes, FIVE minutes y’all, sweat was pouring down my legs! I kid you not. Lucky thing I was wearing black shorts—always bet on black 😉.
The average global temperature is increasing and it is estimated to go up another 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius by 2100 depending on efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Then throw in modern urban development fixtures that can add more degrees to local temperatures such as heat absorption in road tar-seals and concrete buildings. Increasing local temperatures means higher human exposure to heat, which may create unhealthy and potentially dangerous situations for people who don’t have air conditioning or other cooling methods.
The human body maintains a core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. During hot weather, your body typically cools itself off through sweating or contact with cooler air and air movement. But if these methods are inefficient, that heat generation needs to be reduced. If physical activity is high in a hot environment with an increased core body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), then diminished physical capacity and mental task ability may occur, resulting in heat exhaustion. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion may include headache, dizziness, fatigue, malaise, and nausea, which can be resolved by proper hydration and cooling. But serious heat stroke and possibly death can happen if body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius. This is particularly important for those who work outside, children, older adults, and those who are chronically ill during these extreme temperatures. So please, please stay hydrated and dress comfortably and, if you can, check in a loved one who needs it during these hot patches.
The key to managing these disrespectful weather conditions is to stay cool and hydrated. So I stock up on my usual high-water content foods like pineapple (also anti-inflammatory) and cucumber. Here are some other surefire ways to beat the heat:
What list for cooling foods wouldn’t be complete without watermelon? Watermelon is synonymous with summer. And I’m saying this as a person who used to abhor watermelon at cookouts. But as you get older, you get wiser and all that. Watermelon is a great hydrator with a moisture content of 93 percent. The fruit is also rich in lycopene, the red antioxidant that gives the fruit its pigment and protects against cancer. It has been reported that the lycopene concentration of fresh watermelon is 40 percent higher than raw tomato. #watermelonwins Some evidence indicates that lycopene is effective against certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. What’s more, lycopene works with vitamin E to prevent low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol that results in heart disease. The fruit is also a good source of chromium, a nutrient that benefits patients with diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels. Watermelon has beta-carotene and vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. It’s summer so watermelon sippers are definitely on hand.
I have a love/hate relationship with zucchini, depending on the type of dish that I make with it. Why am I telling you this before I try to encourage you to eat it? Because you will either love it or hate it, depending on the type of dish you make. What I’ve found is that zucchini generally work better when it’s thinly sliced, julienned, or spiralized. Otherwise, you are asking for a sea of mushy veggies. And Mama don’t like mush. This is just my opinion, I repeat my opinion, go for what you know. Zucchinis have a water content of 95 percent and it contains the antioxidants vitamin C and eye-boosting lutein that protects against age-related macular degeneration. The vegetable also has beta-carotene, folate, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Some evidence suggests that zucchini consumption may be beneficial in preventing conditions such as colon cancer and heart disease. Two years ago, we got a spiralizer and it totally changed my relationship with zucchini. Zoodles (zucchini noodles) is one of the best dishes to have on a hot summer night.
I grew up hearing the lyrics to Harry Belafonte’s song, “Coconut Woman” before I could even speak. Get you coconut water, Man, it’s good for your daughter. When I was about nine years old, I went to Jamaica for the first time to visit my family. I watched with trepidation and excitement as men would climb coconut trees and get green coconuts that looked odd compared to the brown hairy bowling-ball ones that were in America. They would chop off the top with a machete, scoop out a little of the coconut meat, then stick a straw in it (if you were a newbie like me) or lift that shell to right to your lips to drink the sweet juice. I said it once and I will say it again: yardies are hardcore! At the time, I thought it was the craziest thing ever but now I realize how lucky I was to experience coconut water straight from the source itself. Coconut water has protein, sugars, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and iron. This water also has antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. But what makes coconut water really special is that electrolytes like potassium and sodium make it a great hydrator for restoring the losses of electrolytes from the body, particularly from areas such as the skin and urinary pathways. According to a 2000 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, coconut water was effective as a short-term intravenous hydration fluid for one critically ill patient. Don’t get any ideas because this was due to hospital shortage in a remote area of the world. But when it comes to mild dehydration, you can’t go wrong with coconut water when it comes to replenishing those fluids in your body.
I go through these food phases where I will eat a certain kind of food for one of my meals pretty much five days a week. And that was oranges. My weekday breakfast used to be soy yogurt with about half an orange. It was a perfect light breakfast that kept me satisfied until midday. I’ve moved on from that humble breakfast but I still love oranges. What is wonderful about oranges is that they are usually so accessible. I’m a New Yorker so I’ve gotten oranges from street vendors, bodegas, supermarkets—you name it. Oranges are also a high-water fruit with a water content of 85.7 percent. We all know that oranges are chock full of vitamin C and dietary fiber. In addition, the fruit contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin E, as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. Oranges are loaded with antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids that have anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic properties. Flavonoids prevent the growth of tumors such as colon, oral, breast, and lung cancer cells. Furthermore, these compounds protect against oxidative stress that may lead to cardiovascular disease. Red or blood oranges contain other antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins that are not present in other varieties of oranges. I love the addition of oranges to a nice lunch or dinner salad.
Sometimes at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, I need a little snack to tide me over until dinner and I have absolutely no freaking clue what to eat. Celery has a crisp, sharp taste that works so well with dips like almond butter and hummus. Chop up a few sticks of this veggie with something to dip with and mission accomplished! Celery is a perfect hot-weather hydrator because it has a water content of 95 percent. This vegetable is rich in vitamin C, folic acid, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, silica, chlorophyll, and fiber. Some studies indicate that celery has shown antifungal activity against certain types of bacteria. What’s more, it has been reported that celery is a mild diuretic that may benefit arthritis and gout patients in eliminating uric acid and that the vegetable may have anti-inflammatory potential to reduce joint swelling and pain. I like to add a little celery to my chickpea salad sandwich for crunch and coolness.
Star fruit (Carambola)
I wasn’t really familiar with star fruit until my son pointed it out at the supermarket and asked if he could try it. I knew enough about it to know that it tastes similar to apple, so why not give it a try? And yes, the fruit does taste like apple with a slight sour undertone. Star fruits are a wonderful refresher because they have an average moisture content of 90 percent. The fruit has nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, proteins, and dietary fibers. The leaves and pulp are also a good source of antioxidants flavonoids like quercetin and apigenin that have anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. Some research indicates that star fruit may be effective in reducing blood glucose levels and reducing serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels that may lead to cardiovascular disease. What’s more, the fruit has shown selective activity against brain tumor and liver carcinoma cells. Please note that there have been some reports of toxicity after star fruit consumption for some patients with kidney disease. I like to mix star fruit in my beverages, salads, or just have it plain for a midday snack. No fuss, no muss.
These are a few of the foods that I like to cool off with. What works for you?