Cooling foods to beat the summer heat

Keep hydrated with plenty of watery foods.
Keep hydrated with plenty of watery foods. Photo: iStock

Keeping your body cool in high temperatures requires more than just icy drinks and frozen treats.

Here are a few clever ways to beat the heat over summer that are also healthy and delicious.

Pick water-based foods

Accredited practicing dietitian Kate Save, who is chief executive and co-founder of Be Fit Food, says the key to cooling the body from the inside out is to keep hydrated.

"Seasonal plant-based foods such as fresh vegetables, salads and fruits are the most hydrating given their extremely high-water content," she says. 

Some - such as lettuce, cucumber, watermelon and strawberries - contain up to 90 per cent water, and have high mineral content, which helps with long-term hydration, Save says.

When it comes to staying hydrated through liquids, water does a pretty good job of quickly cooling the body. However, one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 also found that milk helps keep you hydrated for longer as it contains the sugar lactose, protein, fat and sodium, all of which help to slow down the emptying of fluid in the body. 

"As for water, intake should increase to at least two litres per day as trying to keep cool from solid food might leave you feeling extremely full and bloated," Save says. 

Choose gut-friendly foods

Rather than settling for sugary popsicles and soft drinks that only offer short-term hydration and cause blood glucose levels to spike, Save suggests we swap them for more gut-friendly options.

"This way you also protect the gastrointestinal tract and its billions of bacteria required for the production of vitamins [and for] for maintaining a well-balanced immune and digestive system," Save says.

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"Opt for frozen low-sugar yoghurt made from real fruit, which may also contain beneficial probiotics for improved digestive health.

"Kombucha, which gives us that sweet fizzy sensation of a soft drink, is high in probiotic bacteria similar to the healthy bacteria found in our gut, linking it to improved digestion but also immune function."

Another great option is whole-fruit and vegetable smoothies, Save says.

"Think kale, spinach, banana and mango, which you can load with chia seeds and plant protein, making for a great refreshing drink with additional gut health benefits."

Select foods that make you sweat

Yes, sweating can help you cool down. The active compound capsaicin found in chilli peppers is responsible for this surprising effect, Save says.

"The sweating effect we experience from consuming adequate amounts of capsaicin can actually encourage our bodies to cool down as the sweat is evaporated from the skin."

The bottom line? Keep your cool by listening to your body, keeping up fluids and looking beyond the usual sugary drinks.

Here are some summer-friendly recipes from our collection.

Jill Dupleix's Egyptian iced tea

Egyptian iced tea.

The essence of summer. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Rose and watermelon popsicles

Coconut and watermelon popsicles by Pete Evans. Image supplied by Monica Cannataci - monicacannataci@hotmail.com

Make your own popsicles. Photo: Jessica Dale

Home-made kombucha

Kombucha can be flavoured with wild herbs, spices and fresh fruit.

Kombucha can be flavoured with wild herbs, spices and fresh fruit. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Frozen berry yoghurt

Balmain, Sydney. Food by Kate Gibbs for Good Living. Modelled by Hannah, 6yrs, with Berry frozen yoghurt .Photo: Quentin Jones. April 26, 2011.

Keep cool with DIY frozen yoghurt. Photo: Quentin Jones

Luke Mangan's citrus salad

EPICURE - PHOTOGRAPHED BY ANSON SMART, STYLING BY KRISTEN ANDERSON.   LEMON RECIPES.

PIC SHOWS CITRUS SALAD - made with rocket, sliced orange, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil dressing.

Citrus salad with rocket, sliced orange, chickpeas and cherry tomatoes.

Jill Dupleix's watermelon, feta and mint salad

Watermelon, feta and mint.

Refreshing fruit salad. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Salsa Mexicana

Salsa Mexicana. Caroline Velik AUTHENTIC MEXICAN recipes for Epicure and Good Living. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. Food preparation and styling by Caroline Velik. All props from Market Import, must credit. 100224.

Spice it up with salsa. Photo: Caroline Velik

Neil Perry's spicy barbecued chicken

Spicy barbecue chicken.

Add some oomph to your chicken. Photo: William Meppem

Berry soup with raspberry sherbet

Berry soup with berry sorbet.

A sweet finish.