With the sun getting harsher during summers, it is the time we crave for something that will keep us cool and carry us through the season. While fans and ACs can help us externally, we need to consume specific ingredients to do the trick internally. Not only that, these wonders will also take care of some of the ailments that the weather comes along with.
Nutritionist and Dietician Golla Sailaja throws light on the importance of hydration and healthy ingredients that will keep you cool this summer.
Before we go ahead, let us understand the role food plays in keeping the body cool…
Good to know:
Food has always played an important role in different cultures and is believed to play a significant role in the treatment of diseases too. In India, as well as a lot of civilizations, certain food is categorised as “hot or heating ” and “cooling “. As per research, this system has been explained in detail in Yajurvedic literature of India, writings of Hippocrates in Chinese works too. Though this concept is considered an incomplete and inadequate approach to the modern Nutrition and Physiology studies, it has remained basic to traditional treatment in China, Near East and India.
Other similar studies conducted in Arid regions of India – Rajasthan also showed usage of local plants in a specific manner by the inhabitants to combat the high temperatures. Those plants can be called as coolants as they help to cool the body down by metabolic adjustments like the recycling of body water or enhancing evaporative loss due to perspiration and evaporation.
Why hydration is critical
In India, a large number of states are affected by the hot summers and the news of people dying during summers is extremely alarming. Hence, it is essential to discuss how to cope with it. Keep in mind that an individual’s ability to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance is one of the many factors which affect heat stress. Pre-existing illness increases due to hot weather and leads to dehydration or hyperthermia and in worse cases to death. Vulnerable groups, therefore, include children, elderly, ill, pregnant women and people who work outdoors (exposed to the sun) for most of the day like farmers etc.
So before discussing foods, it is important to note that heat dehydrates and therefore rehydration is essential to maintain health. Drink at least 2 to 3 litres of water per day and take special care of children, elderly, etc. Wearing light coloured and loose clothes are also key.
Now a list of foods and the mode of intake as followed in some parts of the country to combat heat are:
This commonly available fruit is a boon during the summers. Its high-water content helps you keep your body hydrated. Watermelon also helps maintain electrolyte balance thanks to its sodium and potassium content.
To use as a coolant: You can consume it as you wish (as a whole fruit, juice, etc).
Bilva or Bael
Since a long time, the bael tree has been known for its great nutritional value and been a part of treatment in Ayurveda. Its antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic, cardioprotective as well as anticancer properties make it this potent.
To use as a coolant: Mix the pulp of bael fruit with water (diluted) and consume on a regular basis.
Ram Tulsi/ Vana Tulsi
The holy plant is known for its medicinal values since time immemorial. Different parts of the plant have been used for treating various problems and it is also known for its anticancer and antidiabetic properties.
To use as a coolant – Soak leaves in water for a few hours and mix with sugar.
Satawar or Garden Asparagus
Commonly known as Shatavri, this is an important medicinal plant. It helps to increase longevity as well as immunity. The effective plant is also believed to improve mental health along with for adding vigour and vitality to the body.
To use as a coolant: Eat 2 or 3 raw.
Nut Grass / Motha
This herb has great medicinal value. It is known for its hepatoprotective properties and for relieving constipation. This wonder is also used in Ayurvedic preparations due to its medicinal value.
To use as a coolant – Powder of 2-3 dried bulbs to be taken with water.
Cluster Fig / Gular
Cluster fig (also known as gular) is a fruit mostly found in Tripura and is known for its medicinal values.
To use as a coolant: Mash the fruits in water, sieve it and consume with some sugar regularly.
Common Purslane / Luni
This is a wild common plant of China and is used in traditional Chinese medicine because of its antipyretic properties. It is known for cooling blood, smoothing the intestine, strengthening the stomach and diminishing inflammation.
To use as a coolant – Consume fresh leaf juice.
Tamarind / Imli
The tasty tamarind is rich in Lysine, glutamic acid, asparatic acid as well as glycine and is an excellent coolant.
To use as a coolant – Prepare juice from pulp with jaggery and water. This is useful in heatstroke and fever. For an effective coolant, you can infuse the leaf with water.
Wild Jujube / Jharberi
These bright red fruits are appreciated for their high nutritional value even in China. They are enjoyed for their taste too.
How it is used as a coolant: Filtrate of the fruit decoction is used to take bath for curing fever caused due to heat stroke
On this summer spread the word around and stay cool.
Golla Sailaja is a Research Assistant at School of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, University of Barcelona. She is qualified with M.Sc in Dietetics and Applied Nutrition.