Anupama Menon, Bengaluru-based nutritionist and food coach, guides you on what you should eat in summer to stay healthy and hydrated
Summers aren’t always as happy as they seem on bikini bodies and crystal ocean waters. Whether humid or dry, summers scream the need for extra care to make yourselves feel comfortable and cooler. Summers also see the spread of infections that catch on quickly due to the heat, the increase in discomfort due to headaches caused by the merciless rays of the sun, skin tanning and damage and lowered efficiencies due to fatigue.
But life has to go on, so what’s the trick? Can some magic be worked into the summer heat to help us cope and energise our days? It’s all in our food. The food we eat determines how often we fall ill, how prone we are to infections and how far into the day we throw the towel in on our energy cells. We don’t need to fill our plates and pile high to induce energy, all we need to do is fill it right.
Here’s what you must include in your diet:
Antioxidants: Those little things that protect you from the bigger demons! All those foods that contain vit A, C and E should see the light on your summer plate. The anti-oxidant properties in these vitamins will protect you from skin damage and rashes from within. Vit C’s antioxidant properties work three fold, it improves your immunity and reduces the chances of catching an infection that run amok during summers, protects the skin from the harsh rays of the sun and photo-ageing and also impressively inspires the production of collagen (a very important skin protein). And this is even more beneficial when combined with the prowess of vit E. Hence citrus fruits, lemons, sweet potatoes, gooseberries, guava, almonds, sunflower seeds and spinach should be your best friends.
Those prone to asthma know how summers can bring out its worst face, summers and the humid climate unfortunately trigger asthma. But let’s call vit D to the rescue. Specifically, Vit D’s antioxidant properties help to keep the symptoms of asthma at bay. Adequate exposure to the sun (not too much) and the right supplementation can help with bringing your body on par with its requirements for vit D. There are few foods that provide vit D, hence include fish, egg yolks and mushrooms in your regular meals.
Immunity Builders: Sultry summers can invite greater chances of the flu and other bacterial infections. So pay special attention to your immunity by taking vitamin C supplements, lemon/ gooseberry shots regularly. If your gut tends to take the slippery slope and risks the potential for bad behaviour, take a natural probiotic daily, beet kvass, fermented veggies, homemade yoghurt or even lacto fermented salsa. Under the recommendation of a medical practitioner, you could also choose an effective commercial probiotic. Other natural probiotic products available in the market are kimchi, sauerkraut or even kefir.
Sleep is an imperative partner in good health. Don’t skimp on sleep, it will only invite headaches, lower efficiencies and sickness in the garb of hot weather.
Besides, a host of fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapes, spinach, berries, guava, coconut water, melons, onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, bell peppers, sweet corn, cucumber etc either cooked, juiced or eaten as salad can provide you with all the vitamins and antioxidants you need to boost immunity and beat the rough side of summer.
Energy Boosters: Yoghurt, buttermilk, coconut water, bananas, fruit, vegetable smoothies and cold pressed vegetable juices can significantly contribute to your energy pool for the day. The enzymes from raw foods and the larger concentration of micronutrients especially potassium from cold pressed juices and fruits is just what you need to boost your spirit and your day. Let the fatigue not deter nor the summer hinder your dreams or your pace!
Natural Sunscreens: Sunscreens are needed topically during summer but did you know that your body can make its own natural sunscreen? Melanin produced in the skin absorbs some of the harmful UV rays thus providing natural protection to the skin. Copper and the amino acid tyrosine together support optimal production of melanin, hence during the harsh summers and even otherwise let your plate see a mix of almonds, cashews, eggs, organ meats, shellfish, spinach and cheese.
Carotenoids are a group of antioxidant compounds seen in fruits and veggies that are between the shades of red, yellow, orange and green. They contain specific pigments called lycopene (most effective) and lutein which provide natural protection against sun damage. So those who tend to be more exposed to the sun, must make sure they drink a tall glass of tomato juice every single day. Other good sources are of lycopene and lutein are papaya, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red carrots, dark green leafy veggies and broccoli.
Hydration: Last but not the least, stay hydrated with lots of water, dehydration is dangerous and a strong possibility. Ice cold water time to time can cool your body down, so stock up your freezer. Fruit ice cubes can add an interesting dimension to alkalising your water! Keep your rooms ventilated and use cottons and comfortable clothing to keep your days light and fresh.