This glorious sunshine means that most of us are enjoying plenty of fresh salads, fruits and refreshing cold drinks. All very healthy choices, but are you really eating the most beneficial foods to help you through a heat wave?
Ice is nice
Nothing cools us down better than ice lollies and ice cream. But are they a healthy option? Homemade ice lollies are a great alternative to bought ones, and much cheaper too. You could make 100% fruit lollies, for example with watermelon, strawberries, bananas and mango, or combine fruit with yogurt. Frozen yoghurt on its own would make an idea post-workout choice after a hot exercise session. If you have a juicer, you can freeze vegetable juices. 50% mixes of carrot and orange, or beetroot and apple are tasty choices.
If you really are craving some ice cream try to buy the best quality ones or even make your own so you know what’s in them. There are many unusual recipes such as beetroot ice cream which might help you enjoy a cooling treat with less guilt. Whatever you choose, icy treats are a delicious way to wind down in the garden in the evening, and a good alternative to a cold beer.
Keep hydrated and replace lost minerals
Nothing beats plain water for the best way to hydrate your body, but including other water-rich options makes life more interesting.
Sports drinks are a good way to keep hydrated, particularly if we’re working out for longer than an hour. They also replace electrolytes such as sodium and potassium in our body which decrease if we’re working out in hot weather. Coconut milk is a great choice, and includes electrolytes which are lost through sweating and should be replaced in fluids during hot weather. Drinking mineral water and tomato juice, as well snacking on cheese and salted nuts will also help replace lost electrolytes. Milk also contains minerals, so give your body a treat by relaxing with a chilled chocolate milkshake on the patio.
You can try green and black teas either iced or freshly brewed. Hot tea can be surprisingly refreshing in hot weather, probably because it temporarily raises body temperature, causing perspiration which cools the skin. Tea is also packed full of flavanoids and antioxidants providing many other benefits mentioned here. Chrysanthemum tea is also meant to have a cooling effect on the body and is consumed regularly in the Orient.
Food with a high water content are a must in high temperatures. At 95% water cucumber is a cool choice. Watermelon, being 94% water, is another definitive refreshing choice, and can even be frozen for extra chilling power. Other good choices are celery (96% water), bell peppers (92%) and cantaloupe (90%). In general, eating a rainbow of raw foods suggested here is a great approach.
Eat sun-protective foods
It’s not just slathering on the sun cream which can protect our skin from sun damage. The food we eat can also help to block out the sun’s harmful rays by fighting free radicals which develop during sun exposure. Lycopene, found in red-pigmented fruit and vegetables like tomatoes and red peppers, and beta-carotene, also found in red and orange food, has been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect cells from free radical damage. Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens, although not optimal summer grub, are also linked to natural skin protection due to high levels of polyphenols and carotenoids.
Recent research suggests that Omega-3 fatty acids – found particularly in fatty fish, oil and nuts – can also help protect cells from free radical damage, minimising wrinkles and even prevent some forms of skin cancer. A delicious smoked-mackerel salad or handful of walnuts sprinkled over is therefore a fantastic summertime meal.
Flavanoids in dark chocolate are also shown to improve sun protection, as well as keeping skin hydrated. But putting a chocolate bar in your sports bag on a hot day may not be the wisest decision so perhaps store it in your salad drawer instead!
Prepare easy foods
During hot weather we want to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, so fuss-free cooking is the target. Salads are great, but can take a while to prepare if you make them fresh every day. Some people swear by preparing a bulk load of salad to last them a few days. For example, a pilaf containing quinoa, feta cheese, olives and chopped salad vegetables can be tripled in size and taken into work, or enjoyed as a quick evening meal (some people may question the loss of nutrients caused by chopping the salad up so long before eating). Bought quiche, baked potatoes, herby pasta, steak and bread, Panini, couscous and sardines, stir fries and frittata are all easy to make foods which even the laziest cook can quickly rustle up.
Whatever you eat during this hot weather, enjoy the sunshine and great outdoors. Fun in the sun is a great health tonic, and so much more so if we can keep ourselves cool and energized throughout.
by Jessica Ward
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ward
by Laura Briggs
by Jessica Ward