What to Eat to Stay Healthy in the Summer Heat

In Ayurveda, the diet is personalized for each person based on their constitution, imbalances, age, digestive fire, disease (or lack thereof), and also the season.

When I work with patients, I assess all of those things as I create a personalized diet and lifestyle plan. There’s no one-size-fits all diet for an individual and there are few things you can do during one season that carry over to the next.

summer-sceneRight now, we’re officially in the midst of summer, so your diet should be adjusted accordingly to account for longer, hotter, and drier days. That means the diet that worked for you in the spring, fall, and winter needs change.

In the past, I’d eat the same thing throughout the year and I’d often get all sorts of summertime maladies like rashes and hives. TMI? Ok, let’s look at the basic principles of summertime diet plus some tips on foods to enjoy and avoid right now.

Opposites Heal

In Ayurveda, we use the law of opposites to balance the body. So if you’re suffering from heat-related maladies, you’ll use something cooling and soothing to counteract. When it’s toasty out, cucumber, coconut, juicy fruits like melons, and a light diet help keep the body cool, but also help support decreased digestion.

Do you notice that when it’s really hot, your appetite drops? During the depths of winter, our digestion is strong and our diets are heavy and nourishing; however, during summer the sun’s rays, high temperatures outside, and dry (or humid) heat means our bodies both heat up and dry out as a result.

Because our digestion decreases in summer, there is more of a chance of bloating, constipation, diarrhea, acidity, and acid reflux—all illnesses that can result from reduced digestion.

What to Eat

A summer diet should be light, unctuous, and easy to digest, but not too dry. So rather than gorging on barbecued ribs, chips, popcorn, potato salad, and burgers, try having a light quinoa bowl with carrots, cilantro, and zucchini with ghee.

Ice cream is a favorite during summer, so if you’re going to have it, do so during midday when appetite is strongest. And do so in moderation. Too much cold, heavy food can cause major indigestion and lead to digestive problems and skin disorders.

Alcohol and coffee should be minimized. If you do want to enjoy a tasty adult beverage, white wine is your best bet. If you’re a coffee drinker, enjoy it with cardamom to minimize the heat and caffeine or go for a latte instead of an espresso. Tea is a good alternative as its less acidic and not quite as heating.

While it’s important to eat all six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent) go easy on the pungent, salty, and sour foods, favor sweet and bitter. Some astringent, like beans and pomegranate, is good if you tend to be oily or suffer from rashes, water retention, or hives in summer.

If your digestion gets sluggish, try takra with a summertime tweak (just take this takra recipe and instead of cumin, add some sugar and rose water to it). This is by no means exhaustive, but here’s a list of things to eat during summer and what to avoid.

List of Summer Approved Foods

  • Aloe vera juice
  • Pomegranate
  • Cucumber
  • Lime
  • Coconut (coconut oil, water, fresh, and ground)
  • Cilantro/corriander
  • Parsley
  • Juicy, sweet fruits (watermelon, melon, peaches, sweet citrus) eat these on their own
  • Light grains (quinoa, white rice, corn, heavier grains like brown rice and wheat in moderation)
  • Green or yellow mung beans
  • Leafy greens like spinach
  • Chicken
  • Milk (try warm milk before bed)
  • Beets
  • Sweet takra
  • Sweet potato
  • Zucchini
  • If you eat meat, chicken and lighter meat is best

List of Summer Foods to Minimize or Avoid

  • Yogurt
  • Heavy meat (beef, buffalo)
  • Extremely oily foods – fries, chips, fish
  • Excessively dry foods: popcorn, garbanzo beans
  • Very spicy food (chilies, cayenne pepper)
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Fermented food (like pickles)
  • Extremely salty foods

This summer, stick with a light diet, put on your sunscreen, and you’ll stay healthy and cool. Got questions? Please post them below in the comments.

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