Eat right this season to prevent common summer ailments like dehydration and diarrhoea. This must-read article tells you why staying hydrated should be on top of your list of concerns.
Summer and health concerns
The summer is here and so is heat, sweat, tanning, perpetual thirst and a lack of appetite! Health wise, this season brings with a lot of gastrointestinal problems like vomiting, diarrhoea, food poisoning and others like heat stroke, dehydration and dizziness.
A proper diet, that maintains the optimal hydration level in the body along with a good electrolyte balance, helps to protect from all these problems. The summer heat raises the body temperature that leads to excessive sweating, loss of water, as well as loss of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. If the body continues to lose water and electrolytes through sweat and urination, the body’s equilibrium will be disturbed and could even lead to a stroke and coma.
The importance of water in your summer diet
Therefore, the diet consumed should be such that it replenishes all the losses and helps maintain an optimal body temperature. The most important constituent of your diet in the summer is water. Water constitutes 60% of the human body. If the body continues to lose water through sweating and urination, the total water in the body would reduce, which in turn would lead to thickening of blood, making it difficult to flow. This causes palpitation, heavy breathing and affects all organs of the body. Therefore, keeping the body optimally hydrated is extremely important during the summer season.
This can be done by having plain water, nimbu-paani, coconut water, lassi, cold milk, iced tea, aam panna… the list is long. But cold-drinks, a favourite amongst young and old, are best avoided. Colas or carbonated beverages contain caffeine, which is acidic in nature and acts like a diuretic. It quenches your thirst momentarily, but being a diuretic, it enhances water and electrolyte losses from the body in the form of urine.
Summer vegetables and fruits
Nature has a bounty of different fruits and vegetables that are just apt for the summer. That is why vegetables like ghia, tori, karela, tinda (different types of gourds); cucumber; kakdi; pumpkin; tomatoes; lady finger; mint and fruits like water melon; musk melon; mango and litchi are available in the summers. The reason our elders use to force us to eat all these “boring” vegetables in the summer was because all these vegetables are high in water content and are light on the stomach and easy to digest.
What to avoid
Easy to digest food items are best for the summer as they do not stay in the stomach for long, and do not make you heavy and lethargic. A heavy meal of pooris, paranthas, junk food like fries, pizza, burgers that are high in fat content will make you feel excessively hot after a period of time. This is because fat in the body acts like an insulator to body heat. Fat has a thermal effect, viz., it does not let the body to dissipate its heat to maintain a cooler body temperature. Due to this thermal effect, fatty-fried foods should be avoided in the summer. That’s also the reason why foods like peanuts, dry fruits, til (sesame) which are high in fat are consumed in winters, to keep the body warm.
Foods like ice creams, chilled cold drinks, chilled beer, usually consumed in summers, should be avoided, as excessively cold things cool you temporarily. The body has a feedback mechanism to maintain an ideal body temperature. If an icy drink is consumed or an ice cream is eaten, the blood vessels constrict due to cold temperature. Due to constriction of blood vessels, the blood flow slows down which in turn leads to slow dissipation of heat from the body. If this heat accumulates in the body, it can be harmful. Therefore, it is advisable to have drinks or food products that are cold but not chilled.
Foods that should be consumed in the summer:
- Beverages - Water, nimbu paani (lemon provides potassium to the body), coconut water (one of the richest sources of potassium), lassi (made of curd, easy to digest), aam panna (provides antioxidants, protects against sun stroke) etc.
- Fruits - Mango (rich in vitamin A, antioxidants), watermelon and musk melon (high water content), litchi (good source of vitamins and minerals), banana (richest source of Vitamin K+)
- Vegetables - Ghia, tori, tinda (easy to digest, high water content), pumpkin (good source of vitamin A and antioxidants), karela (high vitamin and mineral content, excellent blood purifier), cucumber (cool and easy to digest as has a lot of water), tomatoes (vitamin C and antioxidants).
Finally, eat light, drink a lot of water and maintain good hygiene to remain healthy in this summer.
Written by Misha Sharma, Nutritionist
You may also like:
- Stay hydrated this summer
- Natural wonders – tender coconut water
- Summer Top 10 – Naturally Cooling Foods