Whether you are already sweltering or if extreme heat is in the forecast, summer’s the time to adjust your diet to stay cooler. We asked two registered dietitians for their take on food intake during hot weather.
Your Body’s Reaction to Heat
Thermoregulation is the process to maintain a stable core temperature to keep our bodies in homeostasis, or “a happy place.” However, food intake can raise our internal temperature just to break down and absorb foods. This is known as the Thermic Effect of Food, explains Mariale Renna, MS, RD, LDN, clinical dietitian at Winchester Hospital.
“To maintain balance in hot weather, our appetites naturally adjust to slightly decrease food intake and limit the buildup of heat that the body cannot dispose of. That said, foods that are too cold or too hot may require additional energy to digest and maintain your internal equilibrium, so the benefit of items like slushies and cold drinks may be short lived,” Renna said.
Hydrate to Keep Cool
Hot weather and high humidity increase the rate of evaporation from our skin, meaning we have to sweat more to stay cool and thus need to increase our fluid intake.
“Remember: fluid doesn’t come from water alone. Fluids such as juices, decaf beverages, and many fruits and vegetables can help you hit your quota every day,” Renna said.
Helen Long, MHA, RDN, LDN, CDE, registered dietitian, explains what she calls the 8×8 rule for water consumption (having eight 8 ounces of water daily).
“We lose water every day through sweating, exhaling and other bodily functions. For a body to function properly, you need sufficient water. Drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water daily. Though this is not supported by scientific evidence, many people use this as a guideline.” Long said. “The Institute of Medicine has issued recommendations saying that men should have 3 liters (13 cups) per day and woman should have 2.2 liters (9 cups)/day of total beverages. These recommendations are based on national food surveys that assess individual average fluid intake.”
Hot Weather Foods to Eat and Avoid
In hot weather, both Renna and Long suggest eating eat fruits and vegetables high in water content, including watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, bell peppers, and pineapple.
“Sick of plain melon? Try popping frozen cantaloupe, honey and water (milk optional) into a food processor and blending to make homemade sorbet that is hydrating and can satisfy a sweet tooth,” Renna said.
“You may want to avoid spicy foods, since ingredients in the spicy foods can cause an increase in body temperature, and when it’s hot out, you want to make every effort to keep the body temperature low,” Long said. It’s also wise to avoid drinking caffeinated coffee, tea, and soda, since they may actually flush water out of your body.”
For more tips on how to stay cool during a heat wave, talk to your health care provider.