What To Eat To Help You Cool Down, According To A Dietitian
We spoke to professional dietitian Chella Po of Better Being to help us eat right while cooling down from the heat
We are quickly approaching the mid-year, with June just around the corner, but you'll have to agree with me that while the rainy season is slowly entering the country, majority of our days still feel really hot! Beach getaways, frequent showers, cooling personal care products, and air conditioning may help, but did you now that what you eat plays a huge role in warming up, and cooling our bodies down?
To enlighten us on the subject, we were fortunate enough to speak to Chella Po, a New York City-trained US registered dietitian. She has returned to the Philippines to help shed light on the importance of nutrition, and hopes to help Filipinos live better lives as they become better informed about the food decisions they make. "I realized from my upbringing how much nutrition information is still missing here! Using my experience in the US and the newest science, I’m hoping to fill in the gaps to support people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing with food."
We often associate having cool treats like ice cream with being able to cool us down, but did you know that having a cool cone of this sweet and creamy dessert can actually warm your body up as the body digests it? Apart from this fact, Chella shared with us a couple more useful facts to remember, as we aim to cool down in the coming days and months. Read on, and get informed!
How then does the body cool down? According to Chella, "our bodies produce heat when we digest food because we use energy as our body processes the components of our meal. Our body regulates its temperature when we are too warm also by sweating to cool down, and this mainly can be supported with good hydration."
If you're looking to complement your cool down routine with the right food, it's important to know what kinds of food pack up the heat too. According to Chella, there are plenty heat-causing foods, and they are the following:
- High protein and high fat meals use a lot of energy to digest. Eat the right portions of these, proteins are usually ¼ of your meal, and fats are usually just about a tablespoon. So eating a cold ice cream can actually make you warmer as you digest.
- Eating large meals can cause heat as this will use more energy.
- Spicy foods! Interestingly, these cause heat, but also if they make you sweat, they’ll cool you down.
- Caffeine slightly increases your heart rate and makes your blood pump faster so this can make you warm up.
- Soups, oatmeal, and hot drinks warm you up from the inside, I had a lot of these in the winter!
- Alcohol causes your blood vessels to widen which can make you feel warmer.
Now that we know what kinds of food and meals pack up the heat in our bodies, it's time to incorporate eating practices and foods that can help cool us down. Armed with these, we'll be well on our way to enjoying the days ahead, as the heat stretches on.
- Eat light meals more frequently during the day instead of three large meals so you’re not using too much energy to digest.
- Stay hydrated with water. Sweating helps your body cool down by cooling the surface of your skin, but we lose water this way and need to replenish it. If you’re sweating excessively, say from exercise or extreme heat, you may want to add electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
- Eat your water! Fresh fruits and vegetables are extremely hydrating too. Choose whole fruits instead of juice as this has more fiber and nutrients, and is better for blood sugar control. If you’re going for juice, fresh squeezed is best, and smoothies can be great too because you don’t lose other plant parts typically lost to juicing. Try a salad with cucumber, tomato, lettuce, red cabbage, and apples. Add leafy greens like spinach or kale to your smoothies, you barely taste them and it’s a great way to get greens! Or make dips and use veggie sticks like carrot, cucumber, celery or red pepper instead of crackers.
- Other cool beverages are so refreshing in hot weather, but try to minimize sodas and drinks with lots of added sugar. Add chunks of fruit to your water if you’re looking for flavor, or try sparkling water instead. Even artificial sweeteners should be consumed in moderation, although they are zero calorie, they are linked to increased weight, increased blood sugar, poorer gut health, and other health problems.
Chella Po founded Better Being, a virtual nutrition coaching service. It focuses on 1-on-1 coaching to help clients build a version of health and wellness for the rest of their lives. She coaches about food, listens to challenges, and troubleshoots to build new healthy habits. She also does private and corporate workshops about healthy eating, shopping, prepping, cooking, and wellness.