Foods That Cool the Body Down

Foods That Cool the Body Down

Contributed by Eve Persak, Nutrition Advisor, MS RD CNSC CSSD

While countries further from the equator experience all four seasons, here in Singapore, our year-round tropical climate doles out three major temperature settings: a little less hot, hot, and really hot.

This is especially so between May and September, as it’s during this period that we get the most hours of sunshine. How can you beat the heat? You know the standard drill - dress in lighter fabrics, carry an umbrella when you’re out or take respite indoors when the sun is at its peak. 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could tweak your food choices to give you a leg up to cool down?  The good news: you can! Here are a few meal and snack time tricks to help cool the body down when the temperatures - and the sun exposure - go up:

  • Drink up

Sweating is the body’s way of adapting to heat. When our sweat moves through the pores, reaches the skin’s surface, and evaporates, we cool down. This process requires fluids and if there are insufficient fluids, the body can’t do this efficiently. Staying hydrated is the easiest way to ensure the body has the resources it needs to keep internal temperatures within the safe range. Fluid-rich foods – like soups, fresh fruits and vegetables – contribute to your daily totals, but beverages – like good old-fashioned water, fresh herbal teas and coconut water - are your best bet. Two litres is considered enough for most adults in temperate climates, so this should be the baseline for most Singaporeans during the hotter months.

  • Chill out

Just as an ice cube lowers the temperature of the liquid within a cup, when we consume anything chilled, the centrally-located digestive tract also cools down. Temperatures at the core of the body have the greatest effect on our thermoregulation processes and even set the tone for how warm or cool we perceive the rest of our bodies to be. So, rather than ransacking the pantry for food, opt for what you can find in the refrigerator or freezer instead. Make your own popsicles or nibble on frozen fruit for snacks. Treat yourself to an icy cold drink or juice when you’re out and about!

  • Meet your magnesium needs

This mineral plays a big role in regulating the body’s temperature. So, cover your bases and make sure that you’re getting enough of this mineral from your diet. Which foods are richest in magnesium, you ask? Plant-based sources include green leafy vegetables, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, avocado, figs, bananas and beans – especially black beans. Animal options include dairy products - such as yogurt and kefir - and fish. 

  • Spice it up

Spicy ingredients – such as chilli, jalapeno and horseradish - aren’t physically hot in temperature, but our palate believes them to be. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to sweat when we eat them.  Though the hot perception might remain in the mouth and throat, the rest of the body can experience a cooling effect from our reactionary perspiration. So, if you enjoy spicy foods, summer might be the ideal time to have them. Consider a fresh tomato salsa, a ceviche, or chilli-based salad dressing. Add a bit of chilli powder or fresh chilli to your smoothies or juices. Your mouth will appreciate a flavour kick and your body might get a little heat relief.