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Summer diet: What to eat and what to avoid – Lifestyle News

While the mercury is soaring, the best strategy to survive the sweltering heat is to prioritise nutrition. Seasonal fruits and vegetables must be intrinsic to your diet during this season. At the same time, being aware of certain common food items and drinks that may have an adverse effect on your health is equally important. 

Think watermelon, which has high water content and citrulline that relaxes blood vessels and promotes vasodilation, contributing to a cooling effect, or berries that are packed with antioxidants and vitamins. You must also include fruits like pineapple, which contains bromelain that aids in digestion, or oranges and lemons, which are rich in vitamin C and help boost immunity, besides peaches, sweet lime, grapefruit and amla (Indian gooseberry). 

“These foods help replenish the fluids and electrolytes lost through increased sweating. Additionally, fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins and minerals can also boost your immune system and provide antioxidants,” says nutritionist Swati of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale (packed with vitamins and minerals), tomatoes (rich in lycopene that protects from sun damage), bell peppers (high in vitamin C and antioxidants), zucchini (high water content) and cucumbers should also be a part of you diet. “During summer, it’s beneficial to focus on foods that help keep you hydrated, provide essential nutrients, and are lighter on the digestive system. Aim at including 2-3 servings of fruits and 5-6 servings of vegetables in your daily diet,” says Priyanka Goenka, chief nutritionist at Renew Healthcare, Kolkata. 

Probiotics like yoghurt (promotes gut health), coconut water (hydrating and rich in electrolytes), grilled fish (light and protein-rich alternative to heavy meats), quinoa and couscous (light grains that can be served cold in salads) and cold soups like gazpacho that is packed with seasonal vegetables should be taken in abundance. 

“It’s essential to be mindful of what we eat during summers, prioritising hydrating and nutrient-rich foods while limiting or avoiding those that can contribute to dehydration,” says Komal Malik, head dietician, Asian Hospital, Faridabad.

When it comes to beverages during summer, it’s crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, coconut water or fresh fruit juices without added sugars. Light, refreshing meals like shakes, smoothies and chilled soups can be excellent choices, says Swati of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. 

Foods to avoid

People tend to think beverages are hydrating but they can also have an adverse impact on your health. For instance, tea, coffee or beverages high in caffeine and sugar might quench your thirst for the moment but may end up causing dehydration. 

Alcohol consumption should be checked as well because it is dehydrating in nature and can even worsen your condition causing electrolyte imbalances. “Sugary beverages can also contribute to dehydration and should be consumed in moderation, with plenty of water alongside,” says Goenka of Renew Healthcare. They can also lead to feelings of lethargy.

It is also wise to avoid or limit foods that are heavy, fried or high in fat and protein, as these can be difficult to digest and make one feel uncomfortable in the heat. Processed and cured meats, as well as aged cheeses, should also be minimised due to their higher potential for bacterial growth in warm temperatures, says Swati of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

While a little spice in food can stimulate sweat, some spicy foods cause excess internal heat that may be best avoided or consumed in moderation. Junk and processed food also have similar effects. “Spicy foods like pickles and dishes with high salt content can also dehydrate the body and increase thirst. Similarly, fried foods such as namkeens and bhujias should be limited as they contribute to dehydration,” warns Malik of Asian Hospital.

The science behind it all

The human body is designed to maintain a core temperature of around 98.6°F (37°C). But during the hot summer months, it has to work harder to regulate the body temperature. Certain foods and drinks have the potential to impact this process. There are some that are known to be quite helpful in easing the body while some are not that conducive and may even have harmful effects. 

Dehydration, indigestion, food poisoning and sunstroke are common in summers and nutritionists say choosing food items to strengthen the immunity becomes necessary. As such, the science behind foods and drinks in summer revolves around the principles of hydration, nutrition and the body’s response to heat, says Faridabad-based nutritionist Anisha V Ranjan. 

Hydration optimisation, electrolyte replenishment, antioxidant fortification, aiding digestion, sustained energy sourcing, thermoregulatory benefits and promoting gut health are the scientific rationale behind the selection of foods and beverages that are recommended for summers.

“These choices are meticulously crafted to address the physiological demands imposed by the hot weather,” says Dr Bharat Agarwal, consultant, general medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai. 

At the same time, there are certain food items that can decrease the body’s metabolism in the summers and can obstruct thermoregulation. They mostly include processed and fried foods that can decrease the body’s metabolism, and alcoholic and caffeinated beverages which act like diuretics, promoting fluid loss, potentially contributing to dehydration. 

Hydrating drinks like water, coconut water and seasonal fruit juices help replenish the body’s fluids without adding unnecessary calories or stimulants. “By understanding the physiological impact of different foods and drinks, individuals can make informed choices to support their body’s natural cooling processes during the sweltering summer months,” says Swati of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. There is no replacement for plain simple water for hydration. 

Alkaline vs acidic food

In summers, the role of alkaline and acidic foods in our diet is crucial to maintain the body’s pH balance. As per doctors and nutritionists, ideally, the body fluids should be alkaline rather than acidic to minimise diseases and support overall health. Experts say alkaline foods often have a cooling effect on the body, making them a refreshing choice in warmer weather.

“They are better than acidic foods. Alkaline foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes help your body to produce less acid. Whereas acidic foods like animal proteins from milk or milk base products like butter, cheese, excessive amounts of sugar and alcohol lead to production of more acid which in turn can result in dehydration and indigestion. 

For this reason, it is preferable to include those food items that are alkaline in nature,” says Malik of Asian Hospital. Dr Agarwal of Apollo Hospitals says chlorophyll-rich foods, particularly dark green leafy vegetables, play a significant role in keeping our bodies alkaline. These foods support cell regeneration and help eliminate toxins from our bodies. Additionally, certain whole grains like amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa that are alkaline-forming and contribute to pH balance.

Experts also point out that acidic foods like refined grains, sugar, meat, dairy and processed foods should be limited in our diet not just because they impact the pH balance but also because they make our bodies draw minerals like calcium from our muscles and tissues to restore alkalinity which result in muscle wasting and depletion of bone mineral content and development of kidney stones over time.

However, Goenka of  Renew Healthcare says there’s no need to strictly favour one over the other based on the seasons and an overall balanced diet that includes a variety of both alkaline and acidic foods is typically recommended for optimal health. Swati of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals also says that acidic foods like meat, dairy and grains should not be completely eliminated from the diet and one should have them in moderation to maintain an overall pH balance.

6 easy drinks to stay hydrated

1. Just remember that there can be no replacement for plain water. Drinking enough water can not only regulate your body temperature, but also help your kidneys to function and remove toxins. It also keeps your skin supple and aid in weight loss by making you feel fuller.

2. Have traditional and natural beverages like chaas, which helps the body recover from dehydration; sattu sharbat, a healthy drink made with roasted chickpea flour and is an excellent source of nutrition; and coconut water that may help with hydration, diabetes, heart health, and more.

3. Some simple recipes can do wonders. Go for a glass of lemon mint water, a sugar-free drink that is not only refreshing but also easy to prepare, or cucumber detox water that has many health benefits including weight loss, blood pressure reduction and more.

4. Spice up your bland-tasting water at home by incorporating it with chia seeds soaked in lemon juice. The drink can help with constipation, gas, indigestion and other digestive issues. Chia seeds are also high in dietary fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

5. You can have a cold soup like gazpacho that is light and refreshing. Widely consumed in Spain and Portugal, gazpacho is made  from raw, blended vegetables usually with fresh tomatoes as its base. It is also a great appetiser and ideal for summer months.

6. Drink fresh juices (without added sugar) made from seasonal fruits such as watermelon, oranges, pineapple, mangoes, coconut and berries not only to keep yourself cool and refreshing but also to boost immunity 

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