With summer weather finally hitting Melbourne (upwards of 35 degrees this week!!!) it is imperative that we keep well hydrated and nourished. Heat can affect our body in many ways and can cause cramps, exhaustion and dehydration among other things. If you’ve ever endured an Australian summer, you’d be well aware that it is an extremely strong heat that can leave you feeling extremely exhausted and as though your skin is burning. As much as I love the sun, even I find it a bit too much, and do whatever I can to ensure it doesn’t have an adverse effect on my health.
It is important to protect ourselves both inside and out; when indoors try and stay in an air conditioned room and keep the curtains closed. When outdoors wear sunscreen and a hat and try and stay in the shade to avoid overheating. These are fairly standard things to take into consideration in hot weather, however you may not think too much about what you should (or shouldn’t) be eating and drinking…
So to ensure you’re not letting the heat get the better of you, here are some of my top tips for keeping you cool, hydrated and nourished this summer.
1. Drink plenty of water!
Then drink some more! Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water as you will be more likely to dehydrate or overheat. Keep a bottle of cold water with you and keep sipping on it, or try and drink a glass or two of water every hour. As mentioned in my ‘Healthy Christmas’ post, drinking water is essential, not only to ensure your body is well hydrated but to keep it at a constant and cooler temperature. It is also essential to regulate body functions such as digestion and absorption of nutrients, both of which take more energy for the body to complete in warmer weather.
2. Eat smaller meals and eat more frequently
Eating smaller meals more frequently means that there is less food for your body to break down, therefore less metabolic heat is created, which can increase your overall body temperature. It also ensures that your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to process the food. It is best to avoid excessive amounts of food that are high in protein, fats and carbohydrates, as they take a lot of energy from the body to break down, particularly proteins, which are prone to increasing metabolic heat.
3. Enjoy meals that will cool the body
As previously mentioned, it is best to avoid high protein, fat and carbohydrate based foods due to the energy required to break them down. Many of you may think of a hot summers day at the beach with a nice cold ice cream, but believe it or not, ice cream can actually cause your body to heat up. Although it may have a cooling affect whilst you eat it, the high fat and sugar content of ice cream means that your body will have work much harder to break it down, which of course causes your body to heat up. It’s best to stick with plant based foods; fruit and veg are ideal foods to consume as they don’t require much energy to break down, so enjoy meals such as cold soups, salads, and fruit. Most of these foods also contain high amounts of water, which will provide your body with extra fluids. You may also be surprised that spicy foods can help to cool the body. Although it may not sound too appealing on a hot day, try including some chilli in your meal as its heat cause us to sweat, which in turn has a cooling effect on the skin.
4. Avoid alcohol, caffeinated and sugary drinks
We all know that water is generally the most beneficial beverage to have on a hot summers day but many of us are partial to a cooling cocktail or cold bee,; however this is not great for our bodies. Both alcohol and caffeine can have a dehydrating effect on our bodies, due to its diuretic (increasing rate of urination) abilities. This essentially means that our bodies are excreting water at an increased rate (thereby interfering with the levels of water in our body), reducing our capacity to retain water and decreasing our ability to produce an anti-diuretic hormone (ie. to decrease the rate of urination). Sugary drinks (including some fruit juices) should also be limited as they can lower the rate at which water moves from the digestive system into the bloodstream.
Try making your own healthy and hydrating drinks, for example mineral water with a spritz of lemon, lime or orange, or a fruit smoothie – use frozen berries, mango, banana etc and blend with a splash of water of milk.
Hopefully these tips and ideas will help you stay cool and healthy so you can enjoy these summer days!