SHERYL AFONSO e D’SOUZA
(CLINICAL NUTRITIONIST (NORBERT’S FITNESS STUDIO) & ASST. PROFESSOR (POST GRADUATE DEGREE STUDIES , CARMEL COLLEGE)
Summer is when ‘cold’ businesses rake in the moolah as children and adults indulge in their choice of ice-creams, cold drinks, chilled beers, iced teas, and the like. Before we differentiate between the so-called “hot” and “cold” foods, let’s learn a little about how your body responds to ingested food.
Normal body temperature is 370C, the temperature varying throughout the day depending on the environmental temperature, your level of activity and what you eat and drink. Temperature can also vary due to natural circadian rhythms, smoking, emotional and psychological states, illness and a range of other factors. The mere act of putting a food in your mouth and beginning to chew it leads to a slight increase in body temperature, as your metabolic rate increases in order to allow the digestion of food. The components of a food also influence how your body reacts to a given food, temperature-wise. Foods that contain higher amounts of the macronutrients – fat, protein, and carbohydrate – actually ‘heat’ up the body more as there is a rush of blood to the digestive tract in an attempt to enable better break down of these ‘big’ molecules. Fat is also known to require more energy for digestion – and any time there is an increased demand for energy (whether it is because of eating or an illness or exercising), your body tends to heat up.
“Cold” foods are perceived as those which are refrigerated and supposedly help lower your internal body temperature, while “hot” foods are the ones you are often asked to stay away from! Let’s now dissect each of the appetizingly ‘cold’ and unbearably ‘hot’ foods….
- Ice-Creams top the list of summer must-haves. Do remember that ice-creams are fat-rich, carbohydrate-rich foods! The temperature difference between an ice-cream and your body temperature gives a cooling sensation, but when your body begins to digest it, you actually ‘heat up’ due to the excess energy required to digest the fat in it!!
- Beer is an adult-favourite, and is a known ‘dehydrating’ beverage. It ‘vasodilates’ your body, which can cause your skin to heat. The surface capillaries, especially on your face, will feel warm. And the more alcohol you drink, the more ‘flushing’ will occur, and the warmer you will feel.
- Watermelon, with its extremely high water content, requires very little energy for digestion, and so is more likely to keep you feeling cool!
- Tropical fruits like mango, papaya, and banana are often termed ‘heaty’ foods; that’s an alternative medicine principle that finds little understanding nutritionally. These fruits are more energy-dense than maybe grapes or sweet limes – yes – but they come choc-a-block with vitamins and minerals which don’t really increase the energy load in your body. The verdict – you can safely enjoy them this summer without the worry of ‘burning up’!!!
- Dairy produce such as lassi, curds, and buttermilk have a higher protein content, which again, requires not as much energy as fat for digestion. Besides, they have a high fluid content too, which makes them desirable for cooling you off during the hot summers. Choosing low-fat dairy options would help to further curtail energy generation in the body.
- Juices – sugarcane, fresh fruit, vegetable, lime – are again ‘light’ in terms of nutrient content, and so help to keep the body cool.
- Complex carbohydrate foods such as rice and pulses are harder to digest, and so can be more warming than cooling.
- Spicy foods make one sweat. Sweating is actually your body’s attempt to cool internal temperature. And so … when you sweat, your body is essentially cooling down, although a person looking at you may perceive you as being ‘hot’! Sweating cools the skin, and eating peppers, garlic, jalapenos, and the like may actually be beneficial to you this summer!!!!
Keeping yourself hydrated at all times is the best way to stay cool – whether it’s in the hot outdoors or the dehydrating air-conditioned indoors. So make sure you down your recommended 2.5 litres of water every day, and top it off with refreshing liquids that do not intoxicate but give you an energy high instead!!!