More than anything else, a sip of cold water and a whiff of cool breeze is all that you crave for in summers. You can also beat the heat by staying in an air-conditioned room, or visiting a hill station or splashing around in a swimming pool, but a better way to cool down is to keep your body hydrated and have food with naturally cooling properties. To stay replenished, you can add a few cooling ingredients like mint, watermelon, yoghurt, basil leaves, etc to your drinks, smoothies, salads and raita.
What to eat
Rajnish Mayar, head chef, Hyjack, Restaurant & Bar, Delhi, says that some of his favourite summer cooling ingredients are pineapple, lemon, raw mango, raw papaya, coriander and so on which have medicinal values as well. He believes that most cooling agents have medicinal properties. “Raw mango is not only cool but also rich in Vitamin A, minerals and iron. Raw papaya, a popular cooling agent, is also great for your skin and is a powerhouse of nutrients. Pineapple, another summer fruit, is an anti-cancer agent, good for your heart and prevents cataract and asthma,” adds Mayar.
According to Nader Shaikh, executive chef, Sheraton Grand Pune, people are mostly aware of the popular natural coolants such as mint, yoghurt, cucumber, lemon, etc. However, there are many more natural ingredients which surprisingly act as coolants for the human body. Says Shaikh, “Avocado is a luscious fruit that is rich in antioxidants. The lutein in avocados is a hydrating element that helps lock in moisture. Plus it has potassium which is important for fluid content and regulates the acid-base balance in the tissues. This ingredient has become extremely popular recently and can be consumed in the form of salads, guacamole, smoothies and even desserts.”
Shaikh suggests that another item from your kitchen that should become your best friend during summer is basil. “Fresh juice of basil leaves acts as a natural cleanser and sunscreen for your body. It can be consumed through salads, used in curries for flavour or simply put as pizza topping,” he suggests.
Sagar Bajaj, corporate chef, First Fiddle Restaurants, says that aloe vera, orange, mango, watermelon, cucumber, and kokum are some of the naturally cooling ingredients and have multiple medicinal features. “Kokum is also known as ‘cool king’ of Indian fruits. Cucumber holds many health benefits ranging from aiding weight loss, relieving constipation, preventing cancer, improving heart health, and, more commonly, improving skin health,” he says.
Eat Them Right
While knowing the ingredients is important, consuming them in the right form and right quantity is the key. Suggesting how these ingredients can be added to our food and drinks, Shaikh says, “It is important to use fresh ingredients in summer as they get spoilt very easily, especially when it comes to seafood ingredients like tuna fish. Make sure to use fresh products over canned ones to avail the maximum benefits.”
Those who think that only vegetables, fruits and herbs have cooling properties, must know that tuna fish is also a great food item to be included in your summer diet. Says Shaikh, “It can be consumed in grilled form with some salad on the side or used in pastas and salads. This versatile ingredient can be used in Indian curries and gravies as well. “
When talking about summer drinks and food, it is a sin to miss out kairi or raw mangoes. “Raw mango is a summer favourite that has immense health benefits. We use the fruit in various salads. Mango or the ‘king of fruits’ is enjoyed by everyone. We prepare different dishes with a hint of raw mango in it. Besides mango, raw papaya has an immense cooling effect and is great for cleansing the body. We use this ingredient in salads, especially Asian dishes. Pineapple is available everywhere in summer and is a fruit that people look forward to devouring. A rich fruit known for its powerhouse of medicinal benefits and taste, we use grilled pineapple with tenderloin. This fruit can be used as a surprise element not just in desserts but also savouries keeping the cooling benefits intact,” says Mayar.
In Maharashtra, having kokum sharbat during summer is like a ritual and its use it not limited to only drinks. From dal to curries, it is used in various dishes. Bajaj says, “Kokum, which has a tangy flavour, can be consumed in food and beverages because it is good for the stomach.”
But one musn’t forget to have cucumbers, lemons and watermelons this season. “Cucumbers are incredibly hydrating, and staying adequately hydrated during the hotter months is crucial. Snack on cucumber slices and hummus, or if you’re truly desperate for some heat relief, a green juice with lots of cucumber and lemon is a great way to stay hydrated and cool. Adding some fresh slices of watermelon to your food and drinks will be immensely beneficial too,” Bajaj concludes.