As summer sets in, most of us try to change our diets and lifestyles. Abha Kalsi, director, Taffles Exports Pvt. Ltd, a Delhi-based buying agency, says she cuts out red meat and alcohol completely in summer and increases her fruit intake. Not everybody is as sensible. The relatively easy availability of winter vegetables and comforts like air-conditioning make a lot of people continue with a diet that may be unsuitable for the season.
It’s a practice that has Dr Purwa Duggal, chief dietician, Wockhardt Hospital Ltd, Mumbai, frowning. She insists that we need to adapt with the seasons: “Our bodies are very vulnerable to climatic changes. Heat is dehydrating and wreaks havoc on the digestive system. It is imperative to eat sensibly.”
Fortunately, the season itself provides an antidote. Summer fruit and vegetables are loaded with nutrition—antioxidants and phytonutrients that slow ageing, protect against cancer, maintain blood pressure at optimum levels and keep the heart healthy. What’s more, almost all summer offerings are low-calorie, so your waistline stays in shape.
Here’s an A-Z on how to cope with summer through a judicious management of diet and lifestyle:
Alcohol is best avoided or moderately consumed in summer. According to Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, head of department, internal medicine, Max Devki Devi Heart and Vascular Institute, Saket, New Delhi, “Alcohol tends to dehydrate the body and you end up losing more fluids.” If you must drink, keep it occasional and switch to a light liquor. Bakshish Dean, executive chef, The Park, recommends: “A tropical Chardonnay is a light wine and goes very well with mild summer dishes.”
Berries, Strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, Indian berry and Leh berry come with nutritional bonuses like vitamin C, according to Dr Duggal.
Vitamin C helps in growth and maintains and repairs tissues, its antioxidant property also helps protect against environmental pollution. Strawberries have more vitamin C content than any other member of the berry family, besides boasting a good quantity of folate that is said to cut the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Coconut water, which you must drink a lot this season. It is a natural antioxidant and low in calories. Dietician Honey Khanna at Max Medcentre, New Delhi, advises you to replace sodas and colas with coconut water.
Drink plenty of fluids such as water, juices and cold shakes. You could also have fresh soups, buttermilk, jaljeera (a spicy appetizer made from tamarind, roasted cumin seeds and jaggery), panna ras (a thirst quencher and instant pick-me-up made from mangoes), kokum sherbet (a sour drink made from kokum fruit) and thandai (a cooling drink). Dr Duggal says tea and coffee, which contain caffeine and tannic acid, should be consumed in limited quantities as drinking more than four cups a day can lead to behaviour-altering disorders such as anxiety, irritability and restlessness.
Exercise is a must even during summer. You must work out regularly, though in moderation. Exercising should be done indoors, preferably during the cooler parts of the day —early mornings or evenings.
Food poisoning is a common problem this season. To protect yourself, avoid street fare and leftovers, since food tends to spoil easily in summer. Doctors say that every year the municipal corporations put up huge advertisements warning against eating street food as the water source is unknown. Yet, the increasing incidence of gastroenteritis in summer indicates that people never stop frequenting pavement vendors. Dr Duggal also stresses on the need to wash fruit and raw vegetables thoroughly and handle these with clean hands and cutlery.
Go easy on very cold drinks as these can cause stomach cramps, says the “Extreme Heat” advisory of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a US government organization that issues public health advisories (www.cdc.gov). Drinking extremely cold liquids when you are feeling hot may cause constriction of the blood vessels in the skin, leading to aches or numbness.
Hate the gourd family such as milk gourd (lauki) and bitter gourd (karela)? Avoid them? Don’t. These are the best vegetables for the season; these have a cooling and a diuretic effect, help you to sleep well and are anti-bilious, providing relief from nausea and vomiting tendencies. Other cooling vegetables are cabbage, broccoli, cucumber, asparagus, green beans and eggplant.
Ingredients used in cooking should be fresh. Don’t go overboard with your favourite winter vegetables just because these are available. As chef Dean says: “What could be more fresh than seasonal vegetables? In fact, all the healthiest food is seasonal, besides being more affordable.”
Judicious about juices. According to Khanna, it is best to restrict the amount of juice consumed and eat the whole fruit instead. Whole fruit has more roughage, besides being healthier.
Keep the skin on when you eat cucumbers, cheekus and apples. Most of us tend to peel and discard the cucumber skin, but this is where most of the nutrients are concentrated, says Khanna.
Lime water, made with lemon, salt and sugar, is a simple but perennial summer favourite, refreshing you in an instant. It is also a blood purifier and helps to restore the electrolyte balance of the body.
Mangoes contain more fibre than most fruits, which helps you curb your appetite. These are low in calories (about 95 for a medium fruit), fat and sodium, contain no cholesterol, and have more beta-carotene, which fight against certain cancers, than any other fruit. Mangoes are a good source of not just vitamin A, which improves vision, but also vitamin C. Have mangoes whole, as cool shakes or with yoghurt.
Nuts are best avoided in the summer months as they are high in carbohydrate and oils. At most, you can have four or five soaked almonds in the morning, Khanna says.
Onions in raw form contain protein, sugars, cellulose, minerals, a fixed oil, an essential oil and over 80% water. Eaten whole, onions help in stimulating the appetite and in digestion. Raw onion juice acts as a diuretic. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, a website (www.whfoods.com) on healthy eating, onions may even improve the condition of bones.
Pulp of the ripe bael fruit, available in abundance in summer, makes an instant sherbet. Used extensively by ayurvedic practitioners, this is a good home remedy for diarrhoea, dysentery and irritable bowel syndrome.
Quit eating red meat in summer. The case against red meat, irrespective of season, is quite strong, with its high saturated fat content blamed for increased triglyceride levels that could lead to cardiovascular disease. Recent British research has even linked red meat consumption to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Rehydration is a must to beat the summer heat. For this, you have to drink a lot of fluids. Low-calorie snacks such as fresh fruit and seeds must be eaten as fillers between major meals to stay rehydrated and maintain optimum sugar levels.
Salads must be heaped on your plate. Khanna, however, cautions against sinful mayonnaise and suggests that hung curd or mint chutney be used to pep up the flavour of salads.
Tomatoes and bell peppers supply the body with large amounts of vitamins A and C.
Use a lot of mint leaves in your cooking to stay mint fresh. Mint leaf chutney, mint leaf-based raita and a dash of mint leaf in lemonade are great ways to pep up your meal as well as cool down.
Vegetables, eaten raw with low-fat dips, make for good snacks between meals. Go easy on chips and fried snacks, and try concoctions based on raw vegetables and fruit instead.
Watermelon is arguably the most refreshing fruit you can have in summer. Indeed, the entire melon family—honeydew, cantaloupe and others—are more than just thirst-quenching summer treats, they pack quite a nutritional punch as well. Melons contain over 90% water and are full of vitamins A and C.
X Extra glasses of water must be consumed as dehydration brings with it a host of attendant problems. Dehydration is also one of the main causes of kidney stones. Lack of water leads to increased concentration of solutes in the urine, which then crystallize to form kidney stones, warn urologists. Ideally, you should drink 10 glasses of water every day.
Yoghurt contains about 30% of the daily recommended quantity of calcium. It contains protein as well as zinc and carbohydrates, which provide energy. Yoghurt can also be the base for some great dips for fruit and vegetables.
Zero-bacteria water is a must in summer to keep water-borne diseases at bay. Some popular water purifiers available in the market use reverse osmosis. Doctors, however, recommend boiled water as the safest bet.
Come summer, and the doctors’ clinics start getting crowded. All of us go through bouts of prickly heat, sunburn, rashes and infections picked up in the swimming pool. But, summer can also bring with it a number of serious ailments. Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, head of department, internal medicine, Max Devki Devi Heart and Vascular Institute, Saket, New Delhi, lists the main ones:
Food and water-borne diseases – Virus and bacteria-borne diseases can cause many problems, especially in children. Cases of cholera, typhoid and hepatitis A and E are increasingly reported from mid-March to end-September. Be careful about the food and water consumed, practise hygiene and do not neglect even the smallest ailment. A simple case of stomach upset may be a symptom of a more serious disease and you should visit a doctor immediately. Vaccines are available for typhoid and hepatitis A; these afford 60-70% protection.
Vector-borne diseases — Malaria and dengue are the most common in this category. Ensure there is no stagnant water near your home, and in mosquito-infested areas use repellents, creams and nets. Also, avoid using scented soap in summer as it tends to attract mosquitoes.
Temperature-related diseases —Cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke are common in this season. Increase water intake, consume more fruit, plan your outdoor assignments in the early part of the day or late in the evening. Those suffering from allergic disorders such as asthma, sinusitis and migraines may find their condition aggravated by sudden temperature changes caused by moving in and out of air-conditioned environments.
According to the heat advisory issued by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: “The elderly, children, and people with certain medical conditions such as heart disease, or even the very obese, are at greater risk.” People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat
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