Image Courtesy: Karen Arnold
Maybe you live, like I do, in a bustling metropolis that heats up in the summer. Maybe the asphalt sticks, the buildings block out any breeze, and the heat does not dissipate in the nighttime. Maybe you also suffer living in an old building with no air conditioning to speak of. Maybe you spend your days in your bathing suit, hunkered down next to a big box fan, overdosing on popsicles.
Well, I’m actually going to tell you something strange and awesome: what you eat can actually help you keep cool in the hottest months. Ayurvedic and Chinese doctors have been prescribing cooling foods for thousands of years; why not give it a try?
‘Cooling’ and ‘Heaty’ Foods
In both of these ancient traditions, “heaty” and “cooling” foods must be consumed in relation to one another as they have to balance each other out; Chinese doctors suggest equal balancing proportions of cooling (Yin) and hot (Yang) foods to help the body remain neutral. The terms “heaty” and “cooling” don’t refer to the state of the food (physically hot or cool), but rather to its effect on the body of the person who consumes it.
List of ‘Cooling’ Foods
The following foods have a cooling effect on the body, and are especially good for the summer months when the body tends to be hot on the outside (in alphabetical order):
- Bamboo shoots, banana, barley, bean curd, bitter gourd, broccoli
- Cauliflower, clam, corn, crab, cucumber
- Egg white
- Lettuce, lotus root
- Pear, peppermint, persimmon, pineapple
- Salt, seaweed, star fruit, strawberry, sugar cane
- Tangerine, tomatoes, turmeric
- Water chestnut, watermelon
Notice how many of these belong in a salad or fruit salad? Not only do you not have to heat up the kitchen by turning on the stove, but you’re also helping your body cool off from the inside. Try a cucumber tomato salad with mint, or a corn salsa. You can also try cucumber slices on your forehead or eyes.
List of ‘Heaty’ Foods
Avoid the following foods in the summertime, as they tend to have a heating effect (in alphabetical order):
- Apricots, apricot seed
- Black currant, blackberries, brown sugar
- Cherry, chestnut, chicken, chive, cinnamon, cinnamon twig, clove, coconut, coffee, coriander (Chinese parsley)
- Date, dillseed, durian
- Fried food
- Garlic, ginger, grape, grapefruit peel, green onion, guava
- Leaf mustard, leek, longan,leek
- Mandarin orange, mangoes, mutton
- Raspberry, red and green pepper, rosemary
- Shallots, shrimp, soybean oil, spearmint, spring onion, sweet basil
Eat Spicy Food!
And finally, even though it may seem paradoxical, it’s actually good to eat spicy food in hot weather (after all, that’s what South Asian cultures do). Spicy food induces a sweat, and the function of sweating is to actually cool the body down. If the water you produce by sweating is allowed to dry off naturally, it will actually take the heat away from your body. So don’t wipe off the sweat – instead, sit down by a fan and let your body cool itself down.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.