Summer may be winding down, but it hasn’t ended just yet. And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot out there. As we savor these precious final weeks while taking breaks to crouch under our air conditioners while chugging ice water, you may be wondering: Is there anything else I can do to stay cool?
Sure. You can wear lighter colors, choose more forgiving fabrics (looking at you, linen), make sure to stay hydrated, and flee to a body of water whenever possible. Or you can try eating a diet that keeps you cool. With a few simple (and delicious) adjustments to your daily meal and snacking habits, you may just find yourself feeling a whole lot cooler during the final weeks of summer. Hey, there’s a reason the expression “cool like a cucumber” exists. Here are the best types of food to eat on the hottest summer days—and a few to avoid.
Hydration is key to staying cool and feeling good in the summertime, so opt for foods that are naturally packed with water. “Watermelon is an amazing snack in the heat because foods that are high in water content will help to keep your body temperature down,” says nutritionist Tamar Samuels.
Other Raw Fruits and Vegetables
“Most raw fruits and vegetables are very high in water and are therefore great options to help cool you down. Some of the best options are cucumbers, celery, cantaloupe, zucchini, and tomatoes.” Samuels adds that one of her favorite summer meals is a greek salad. “I throw in fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, mint, and feta,” she says. “It's packed full of cooling ingredients!”
Coconut Water with Mint
And if you’re looking to drink something cooling, try adding mint to fresh coconut water. “Coconut water is a great cooling beverage because it contains both water and natural electrolytes, which help balance the fluids in your body,” Sauels explains. “Peppermint contains menthol, which provides a cooling sensation.”
It sounds counterintuitive, but if you’ve ever noticed that hotter climates favor spicier cuisines, there’s a reason for it: In addition to being delicious, spicy foods actually cool you down—after you sweat a bit, that is. “Even though spicy foods make you feel hot, they actually lower your body temperature down because they stimulate your body to sweat,” Samuels says. “I love adding hot sauce to my favorite summer meals to help cool me down (hello shrimp tacos)!”
Avoid Fat and Protein-Rich Foods
Now you know what you should be eating, but what about what you shouldn’t be eating? When it comes to eating for temperature, you’re better off consuming some foods in the winter months. “There’s something called the thermic effect of food, in which the consumption, digestion, metabolism and storage of food causes an increase in metabolism, and thus produces more heat in the body,” Samuels explains.
If you’re an avocado-loving carnivore, you may want to hold off on those habits for the next month or so. “Protein-rich foods (like beef, pork, and chicken) and high fat foods (like fried foods, oils, and even healthy fats like avocados) have a higher thermic effect compared high carbohydrate foods,” says Samuels, explaining that it takes more energy to digest and metabolize protein and fat, which produces more heat in the body.
And while sipping on cocktails throughout the final weeks of summer is an excellent way to pass the time, it isn’t great for your body temperature. Alcohol lowers your core body temperature, which actually makes you feel hotter—which is why you may have noticed that you don’t feel as cold in the wintertime after a few drinks. “Alcohol also causes dehydration, making it difficult for your body to sweat and cool down,” Samuels adds.
Avoid Coffee and Other Caffeine-Rich Beverages
Not to take all the fun out of life, but your daily cold brew fix might not be doing your body temperature any favors, either. “Caffeine is a stimulant that increases body temperature, potentially causing you to feel hotter,” says Samuels. Think you can handle decaf until after labor day? If so, it might be worth a shot.
So, who’s up for a greek salad with hot sauce and a side of watermelon?