Summer is a stressful time for your body. The heat plays havoc on your organs, metabolism, skin and hair. Everything gets sluggish and harder to do in the summer, which is why you need to make sure that your body has the right kind of fuel to help it to take care of you during the hotter months of the year. You cannot achieve this by sticking to the same diet you adhered to in the winter. The summer brings on its own set of challenges which you can counter in part by eating the right kind of foods. So what are these challenges exactly? And what would a summer diet entail?
We give you the low-down on what you should be eating this summer if you want your body to remain happy, healthy and cool.
Why Change Your Diet in the Summer?
Firstly, because it’s so hot! The heat lowers your metabolism, which means that your body cannot easily digest the same types of foods that it did in the winter. But there are other by-products of the heat that you have to watch out for. For example, sun burn is common, or if you go swimming often to beat the heat then the chlorine in the pool will dry out your skin. Since your skin suffers so greatly in the summer, you have to do all you can to protect it if you want to look great while it’s hot. A summer diet is one of the ways to offer your skin extra protection.
Another reason to change your diet in the summer is because certain foods – especially those that are high in calories, sugar and fat – tend to put a lot of pressure on the internal organs in addition to adding heat to the body. This in turn could lead to heat-related illnesses as well as nausea, headaches, constipation and dizziness.
Finally, you should develop an appropriate summer diet so you can keep your weight down and look good in your skimpy clothes. Chances are that one of the ways in which you will be tackling the heat is by wearing as little as possible. How repulsive would it be if the focus of your outfit was a bulging belly? Continue with a winter diet in the summer and you’re definitely headed down that road. Since your metabolism is lower in the summer, the food you do eat will not be burned off as quickly so it is quite easy to put on weight. But with a summer diet, you indulge only in foods that your body can easily assimilate and burn. So think about lovingly nourishing your system with a summer diet instead of over-burdening it with your regular fare.
Without further ado, let’s cover the foods that should feature prominently in your summer diet as well as the ones which should take a back seat till the colder months come around again.
What to Include in Your Summer Diet
All fruits are perfect for a summer diet. Many meals should include a fruit salad somewhere. Fruits are high in nutrition and make a great snack. Plus, they require very little preparation, sometimes none at all. Which is awesome considering how little we tend to want to move around in the summer, no? Listed below are the fruits which are particularly recommended for consumption in the hot months.
Melons: Melons are one food item which you should have as often as possible in the summer. They taste like heaven, are high in nutrition, plus they have more water content than most other fruits and vegetables. Since dehydration is a huge problem in the summer, you can gorge on watermelons or musk melons to keep your cells hydrated. It’s a fantastic alternative to water and a boon for those who cannot manage to drink the recommended couple of litres of plain water. Another great benefit of melons is that they are natural laxatives. So if you are suffering from constipation or indigestion because of over-eating, let melons feature prominently in your summer diet. To check if a watermelon is ready to be eaten, pick it up and give it a pat. If it sounds hollow, it’s ripe.
Pineapple: Although high in calories, pineapple is a cooling, water-rich fruit that is bursting with nutrition. So it should definitely feature in your summer diet.
Oranges: Low in calories and high in both nutrition and water, oranges make a great summer snack on their own and are a delight in salads as well. Like melons, oranges can really boost digestion because of their high fiber content.
Apples: If you’re looking for a filling fruit that’s low in calories, apples should top your list. They are also very high in fibre so they naturally regulate bowel movements.
Pears: With twice the fibre of apples, pears too are an excellent fruit for the summer.
Berries: Although not typically a summer fruit, berries are nourishing for skin and hair.
You can have your fruits whole, which gives you more nutritional benefits, or you can juice them and sip a glass while you laze around in your lawn chair.
A simple trick to identifying summer diet fruits is to check which ones are locally in season. Chances are high that if a fruit grows in the summer, it is perfect for a summer diet.
Vegetable like cucumber, cabbage, broccoli, celery, carrots, peas, beetroot, tomatoes, lettuce, corn, radish, squash and all green leafy vegetables are perfect for a summer diet.
Cucumbers in particular are extremely replenishing as they contain even more water than watermelons – about 96%! They make a low-calorie snack to munch on between meals, they are filling, plus they add a crunchy texture and vibrant taste to your salads. The perfect summer food.
Mint leaves are also very cooling. You can either chew on them or add them to your lemonade.
Most vegetables are best eaten raw as a snack or in your salad. But if you cannot stand the taste of raw vegetables or you just prefer more flavour, try grilling, roasting, steaming or baking instead. Avoid frying your vegetables in oil, even if it is shallow or stir frying.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb to decide which veggies are right for your summer diet – if a particular vegetable takes less time to grow, then go ahead and add it to your summer diet. You’ll need a little gardening know-how to make this rule useful. Or you can talk to someone at the farmer’s market for some quick vegetable gardening 101.
Ginger and garlic are also great for a summer diet because their heating properties make you sweat, which will eventually cool you down.
Capsicum, mustard and chilli peppers may seem like an odd choice for a summer diet, but these foods can actually serve to cool your body down in addition to helping you burn calories. The active chemical in these peppers – capsaicin – makes you break out in a sweat, which is the body’s natural temperature regulating system. The same component also speeds up metabolism and may help you burn away extra calories. But that does not mean you should gorge on peppers. A small serving included in your meals is more than enough.
Whether it’s from whole grain bread, rice, soybeans or oats, grains are an excellent way to get your carbohydrates in your summer diet without taxing your system. They give you the energy you need to get you through the day without making you sluggish.
When it comes to hydrating your body, remember that nothing beats water. However, if you sweat excessively, then you may be losing electrolytes which plain water does not replace. Coconut water does though. So instead of spending money on an energy drink, sip on coconut water daily if possible to stay cool and healthy.
You’ll probably be having a lot of juices anyway. But if you are looking for the best juice to include in your summer diet, then we’d recommend lemon juice. It’s refreshing, is known to be a cooling drink and it also aids digestion.
Sweetened or salted buttermilk has long been a part of the summer diet in India. It works wonders in cooling you down almost instantly.
Put your yoghurt in the freezer for a couple of hours for your own homemade frozen yoghurt. Add sugar or honey or flavoured syrups to makes it more interesting.
Another tasty alternative to plain drinking water. While there is nothing like plain water, a lot of people find it very difficult to get their daily recommended water intake because water is just not exciting enough. So we have to find innovative ways to get our water without taking in extra calories. Iced tea is one such method. But there is always the risk of sugar calories if you buy the premade variety. Make your own homemade iced tea with honey for the perfect summer diet addition without adding inches to your waistline. Iced tea is refreshing, tasty and a flavourful way to hydrate your body.
Don’t worry, we did not forget the meat-eaters. You can still continue to include meat in your summer diet, although it is better for your health and easier on the body if you switch to leaner meats like turkey or chicken.
Another great alternative is to eat light fish like salmon or tuna.
Again, it is better to grill, bake, barbecue or roast your meat rather than fry it or add it in a stew.
What to Exclude from your Summer Diet
This is a strict no-no in a summer diet only because it has a diueretic effect if taken in excess. This means that if you take in more than 300 mg of caffeine a day, you will start to lose water and get dehydrated. Remember that caffeine is not only found in coffee but also in tea, colas and other fizzy soft drinks.
It dehydrates more than caffeine. So you should definitely strike this one off your summer diet. If you must drink, go with a low-calorie beer.
Oily foods will show up on your skin if you eat them in the summer. You will feel that your skin is oilier and heavier mere minutes after consuming something fried. And when your body has a hard time digesting fried foods, it will very likely manifest as pimples. This is especially true if you have always had sensitive skin. And Murphy’s Law states that the pimple will be the grossest one ever and will crop up on the most visible part of your body right when you have to wear something slinky to the biggest party of the summer! So stay away from those fried foods for healthier-looking skin.
Pork and Beef
These meats are very heavy on your system in the summer and should be avoided as much as possible.
This is one popular dairy product which millions across the world enjoy. But it’s also one of the most calorie-intense and full of fat – both of which are really bad for a summer diet. It’s OK to sprinkle some grated cheese across a fresh salad once in awhile. But avoid it on a daily basis in pizzas, pasta sauce and sandwiches.
If you are a cheese fan and really cannot do without, then go for healthier varieties like goat cheese.
Although very high in protein and flooded with nutrition not found in other types of foods, nuts are generally extremely fatty and heating foods. So you may want to cut down your intake if you are a nut fan. Dates are OK though.
Baked Goods & Sweets
High in flour, fats and sugar, baked goods and sweets are another strict no-no in your summer diet. Your body does not need the extra burden of these empty calories and it just cannot stand the pressure of burning off the excess fat, so it won’t.
When it comes to cooked foods, here’s a simple rule of thumb for what kind of recipes to include in your summer diet – if it takes too long to cook, it’s not a good idea. Recipes that call for the least amount of preparation and cooking are generally the best ones for a summer diet.