What to eat & drink to beat the heat

Well, it seems I’m often writing about the seasons, but as I sit here in this 90…something degree day and what’s a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine to do, but talk about keeping the body cool in the heat.

What to Drink

One of the first things people often ask me is, if it is healthy or unhealthy to drink cold liquids?  Well, it depends because there are differing opinions.

On one hand, it is believed that cold liquids constrict the blood vessels and thus decreases heat loss from the body.  Singers and people who use their voice a lot are often told to drink room temperature water so their blood vessels stay open.

On the other hand, there is research that shows cold drinks cools down they body.  This new research shows that in cold climates, people should avoid really cold drinks because it can lead to heat loss.

So it is most important to listen to what your body needs.  I prefer room temperature drinks, but on a hot day, I’ll add a few ice cubes for a nice refreshing drink.

No matter temperature the drinks are drink more water when it’s hot!  I know you may want soda and juice, but water is the best thing to hydrate the body.

But don’t fret if you grow tired of plain water.  You can also have some Coconut Water.  Coconut water is a popular trend right now and it’s great for you because it contains simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals to help you rehydrate. Electrolytes and minerals are often depleted when we sweat, so replenishing them is key to staying healthy. On a hot day, you tend to sweat a lot as the body looks for ways to stay cool.  But sweating causes you to lose essential minerals which can make you feel sluggish and light headed. Coconut water is a great way to replenish those electrolytes and minerals.

Electrolyte waters like Smart Water are also great, but make sure you stay away from the sugary electrolyte drinks; it contains way too much sugar.

Mint Tea is also a wonderful way to cool the body. I know you are thinking who can drink a cup of hot tea in the heat? Well, who said to drink it hot? Mint tea like many herbs will alter its function depending on how it is prepared. When using Mint to cool the body and vent heat; boil your water first then steep a mint tea bag or tear a 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh mint in the water to steep 3 to 5 minutes ONLY. When it is steeped for this short period of time, its function to vent heat from the skins surface is strongest. I suggest making it in the evening and once it cools down, place it in the fridge for the next day’s refreshment. Chamomile and Chrysanthemum are also great summer time teas.

What Not to Drink

Avoid drinks that have a diuretic effect like caffeine drinks and cranberry juice. They make you urinate and will in the end dehydrate you. However, if you do not sweat sufficiently this may be the way to eliminate heat via the urine. It will help you pull the heat out of the body, but just remember to keep drinking water and rehydrating. Water should be the liquid you consume more than any other, so keep that in mind you coffee lovers. I’ve seen you in line for a giant iced mocha.

Foods that help cool you down

Raw fruits and veggies.

They hydrate the cells of the body which leads to lower body temperature. Fruits and vegetables that contain lots of water to do this are; watermelon, mango, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. In Traditional Asian Medicine all foods and herbs are given a temperature (hot, warm, neutral, cool, and cold). Raw fruits and vegetables are cold and a perfect reminder that it is very important to eat seasonally.

Raw foods are made for summer. Are you listening? That was raw fruits and veggies, not ice cream. All Melons are particularly cold and loaded with water, some even 90% water which makes them a great choice. Nature knows what it is doing by growing the right foods for our bodies in the right season, that’s why you don’t see many melons in the market mid winter, unless it was flown up from the Southern Hemisphere. Green Leafy Veggies are also important. They contain water, but also Calcium which works in our body as a thermo regulator. Our bodies use Calcium for many things, but here it uses it to send signals between the brain and body to regulate body temperature.

Did you ever wonder why people from hot climates eat such spicy food? (India, Mexico for example). It is actually to cool the body. Here is how. It makes you hot and when you are hot, you sweat, that sweat is needed for the body to cool down. So go ahead and have some red and green hot peppers, cayenne red pepper, fresh (not dried) ginger, horse radish and black pepper. Enjoy eating light fruits, vegetables and proteins like legumes especially Lentils, Lima Beans and Mung Beans which have a cooling nature in Chinese Medicine and at the same time produce yin fluids which keep us from drying out. Small amounts of raw nuts and whole grains are fine.

Foods to avoid

Heavy foods with a lot of oils and fats should be avoided.

Say no, to that burger and fries, at least during the heat. Why? Because it takes a lot of energy to digest heavy meats, and fats. Americans eat an overload of starches which are also hard to digest in large quantities. Digestion takes energy which builds heat in the digestive tract. Overconsumption of grains will keep us feeling tired and sluggish.

On hot days we may already feel light headed which is why it is so important to avoid heavy oils, meats, eggs and be careful to not have an abundance of nuts and grains. Avoid roasted and salted nuts as well as white flour. In the heat we need to sustain energy. Whole grains sustain us much better, but they are heavier on digestion, so easy does it.


Last, but not least, you can use an amazing breath we use in Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, to cool down. It is called Sitali Pranayam. Curl the tongue into a U shape (sticking out slightly). Inhale slowly and deeply through the curled tongue and exhale through the nose. It is a powerful cooling breath that has a relaxing effect on the body while maintaining alertness. It is known to lower fevers and aid digestion.

Ahh, now it’s time to sit by the pool with your iced mint tea, curl that tongue and take a deep breath in and enjoy.


Photo Credit:

Hot hot sun 1 by Cimexus, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Cimexus 


About the JOY Coach

Nora Sullivan-Houndalas

Nora Sullivan-Houndalas is a Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She practices in Los Angeles. Her practice includes Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, and Meditation. She is also a certified Kundalini Yoga Instructor. You can contact her at: yatross (at) aol (dot) com.

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