News / Health

Certain Foods Have Cooling Effect in Hot Weather

A person holds a cut watermelon at a fruit stand. A person holds a cut watermelon at a fruit stand.
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A person holds a cut watermelon at a fruit stand.
A person holds a cut watermelon at a fruit stand.
Jessica Berman
Many countries have experienced record-setting high temperatures this year that many attribute to global warming.  While governments have spent billions of dollars to study climate change and ways to counteract it, scientists say there are inexpensive, low-tech ways people can keep cool - and they can be found at the local food market.

Vegetables, including celery and cucumbers, are 90 percent water.  And fruits such as apples and watermelon, where available, are not only tasty but hydrating. In fact, food scientists call them 'a wrapper for water,' and encourage people to eat lots of them.

What isn’t good for you, believe it or not, are ice-cold beverages, according to biochemist Shirley Corriher, who studies nutrition. She says cold drinks will only make you hotter, because your body has to expend energy to bring the liquid to a warmer, more useable temperature.

Corriher notes there’s a biological reason why mothers hold babies close while they nurse them.

“If the baby was fed ice-cold milk, it could die of malnutrition because it took so much out of its body to bring that cold liquid up to body temperatures," said Corriher.

Tea and dry wine contain tannin, a naturally occurring substance which has been shown to have heart healthy benefits.

Nutritionist Sara Risch says tannins can also cool you off.

“It causes a precipitation and kind of a drying out," said Risch. "And that actually from what we can speculate, it helps so that the cells will want to absorb more water.  And that’s what we are trying to do is to make sure that we do in fact stay hydrated.”

Finally, there are chili peppers and other hot spices.    

“You might be thinking, ‘Wait a minute.  These are foods that make you perspire. What’s that going to do?  They are really hot, and you really feel like you are burning. Why in the world would you want to eat those?’ Well that perspiration is actually good for you. It comes to the surface of the skin and you get evaporative cooling," said Risch.

In addition to chilies, Risch says some good hot spices for cooling you down include ginger and peppermint.

Sara Risch and Shirley Corriher discussed cool foods for hot weather at the American Chemical Society meeting this week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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