Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Reaching for a frosty bowl of ice cream might seem like a great way to cool off during these swampy late days of summer. But the energy it takes for your body to process the saturated fat and sugar could actually be raising your core body temperature.
Also try these non-dairy desserts you can make in your freezer.
How about an ice-cold glass of water then? Not so fast. Super cold liquids can force your body to bring itself back up to temperature. This, in turn, creates more heat in your system. While you’re at it, you might want to put down that iced coffee. The caffeine kick-starts your metabolism – another sure way to keep body heat up.
If you really want to chill out for the remainder of the sweltering season, try one of these naturally cooling foods instead.
Staying well hydrated flushes toxins from the body and, in turn, helps to lower your core body temperature, according to the National Institutes of Health. Guzzling plain water can get old after a while, however. So, there’s no shame in boosting your hydration game with foods that are naturally loaded with H2O, including the following:
- Cucumbers, radishes, celery, zucchini: Add these crispy vegetables to your salads, or pair them with hummus for a satisfying, hydrating snack.
- Strawberries, papaya, mangoes: These sweet, juicy fruits make great yogurt toppings, breakfast sides or healthy post-dinner desserts.
- Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe: Add chunks of these refreshing melons to sparkling water for a fizzy, fruity “mocktail.”
- Pears, apples,bananas: Dip these fruits into almond butter, or add them to your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Squash, broccoli, asparagus: Throw these savory veggies on the grill at your next summer BBQ!
When the temperature drops, your neurons communicate to your brain that your body should feel the sensation of being cold. Since we’re still slogging our way through summer, however, we can’t rely on that degree dip just yet.
Luckily, the menthol content in mint activates the same nerve receptor in your body. It triggers a faux frosty feeling, even when outside temperatures continue to rise.
Try infusing your water with mint or adding some chopped sprigs to a bright, summery salad of strawberries and nectarines. Even chewing a few mint leaves can help take the edge off of those hot summer afternoons (bonus points for extra fresh breath!).
While it sounds counterintuitive to shovel a spicy dish into your mouth when you’re already miserably hot, it could actually cool you down. Here’s why: Spicy foods trigger a nerve receptor in your tongue called TRPV1, which registers heat. Once your mouth detects the heat, your body responds by turning on its natural cooling mechanism – sweating. It’s no wonder, then, that peppers and burn-your-tongue spices are among the most popular foods in some of the hottest countries on earth, like India, Mexico and Ethiopia.
Hot drinks can spark the same effect. So, as unappealing as a steamy mug of tea sounds on a stifling summer day, sweating it out to stay cool is actually a smart idea.
It might not make you “feel” cool the way that mint can. But pineapple contains the super powerful anti-inflammatory property, bromelain. This helps your body combat the effects of heat and inflammation.
This water-rich fruit also helps you stay hydrated during the driest days of summer, which can help regulate your body temperature. Try pairing it with cottage cheese, which contains roughly 75% water on its own.
Ayurvedic ‘Cold’ Foods
Carly Pollack, a holistic certified clinical nutritionist in Austin, Texas, suggests turning to the ancient Indian healing practice of Ayurveda. This practice categorizes food into “cold” and “hot,” depending on how your body reacts to it (not whether the food itself is cold or hot to the touch).
“Ayurveda is the oldest medicinal system we have ever studied, dating back thousands of years,” Pollack says. “This holistic modality classifies your body type into Doshas, and each Dosha recommends cooling foods unique to your body type.”
Generally, “hot” foods – i.e. those high in fat, protein and carbohydrates – make your body work harder to break down the food’s enzymes, which speeds up your metabolism and heats up your body.
“Cold” foods, on the other hand, help to regulate the body’s core temperature when outside temperatures soar. These include sweet, juicy fruits such as melons, cherries, grapes, pears and mangoes; fresh coconut water; goat’s milk, goat cheese andghee; and cooling spices, such as fennel, cardamom, dill and coriander.