Beat the Heat with Your Nutrition

Author: Jocie Antonelli

Gettyimages 908678698 1

Gettyimages 908678698 1

We are in the height of summer and most places in the country, including South Bend, are also at the height of the thermometer. So aside from air conditioning and common sense, there are some ways that your eating and drinking habits can help.     

First and foremost, the obvious thing is to stay hydrated.  You can do this with beverages, but you can also do it with food.  It’s no surprise that watermelon is full of water (92% in fact), but there are a handful of fruits and vegetables that contain more: cucumbers, celery, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, and asparagus contain 96% to 93% water respectively.  In addition, all that water is filling so it can help with weight management.  Aim for 5 to 7 servings of hydrating summer fruits and vegetables a day.  And because of the sugar content, focus more on vegetables than fruit. 

Mother Nature and our biology have a cool hack for beating the heat – mint.  Mint is a refreshing herb thanks to the chemical menthol. Scientists have found that menthol actually tricks our brains and our mouths into experiencing the sensation of coolness.  It activates the same receptor on nerve endings that’s involved with sensing cold. There is a protein in menthol that triggers “cold sensing nerve fibers to send an electrical signal to the brain to let you know you are feeling cold.”  So combine mint with tea, lemonade, berries, or ice cream.  

A couple of final thoughts for beating the heat.  For starters, eat spicy foods. Although eating spicy foods can initially make you feel warm, it actually stimulates something called gustatory sweating.  We know sweating helps cool the body down so while spicy foods start with heat, the body compensates and you’ll actually cool down quite nicely.  Thinking of it this way, it makes sense that some of the hotter regions in the world such as India, Mexico, and Thailand have such spicy cuisines.  And another tidbit has to do with the temperature of your beverages.  Most of us would assume that drinking ice-cold beverages is the way to go. According to Dr. Tania Dempsey, that thinking is wrong.  She explains that drinking iced drinks only cools down the part of the body in which the beverage was in contact.  “This can backfire and actually make the body work harder by trying to warm up the cold part of the body that the water was in contact with.  Working harder leads to more heat within the body.”  She recommends slightly cool or room temperature drinks.  That one I’ll have to think about…

So enjoy the rest of summer, be smart, and in the middle of winter, these dog days of summer will seem pretty inviting!    



Dempsey, T., MD. (2019, May 16). Beat Summer Heat. Retrieved July 18, 2019, from
Singh, M. (Writer). (2014, December 19). How Peppermint Tricks Us Into Feeling (Deliciously) Cold [Radio series episode]. In Food For Thought. NPR.
Carberry, C., RDN. (2019, March 29). How to Eat During the Summer Heat. Retrieved July 18, 2019, from


Originally published by Jocie Antonelli at on August 07, 2019.