To combat the heat and all that it brings us—low energy levels, poor appetite and stomach ailments—turn to foods that are intrinsically cooling, hydrating and anti-pyretic (keeping the body temperature low). Pushpesh Pant, food historian and professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says the ideal food for summer needs to strike “a balance between sweet, sour and astringent tastes”.
There’s a reason subcontinental food is heavy on chilli—it’s an anti-pyretic, and as essential for hot climates as warming foods such as cheese and meats are to colder climes. Chilli causes you to sweat and this is what cools your system. “Chilli also helps saliva production and gastric juice production, both of which are factors that help in digestion. It also acts as an expectorant, that is, rids your body of mucous,” says Delhi-based Neha Ahuja, nutritionist, Intermed Clinic, Patel Nagar.
Niggling stomach aches and ailments and other assorted illnesses can be combated with the green sprig of mint. If the serene colour isn’t enough of a cooler, the properties of mint make it a solid weapon in summer. Mint is anti-fungal and antibacterial and a refrigerant (with properties to cool the system). It prevents diarrhoea, relieves gastric discomfort and improves appetite. It is an ingredient in most drugs prescribed for stomach ailments because of its digestive properties. “It also helps in flushing out water from the system and eliminates toxins. Indigestion or tummy ache? Dry mint leaves help soothe the system,” says Rushina Munshaw Ghildyal, Mumbai-based food writer and author of My Mumbai Cookbook. “Mint, most popularly consumed as a chutney or as garnish, (is) a digestive (that) is wonderful for sluggish appetites of the summer months,” adds Prof. Pant.
Heat buster: The friendly bacteria in yogurt cool the system and mint helps combat stomach ache.
How often has a stomach ailment materialized out of nowhere when all you had was the routine home-cooked fare? There might be a chance it was the glass of milk in the morning that was the culprit. In summers, milk is not easy to digest—what better substitute than its cooling, creamy cousin, yogurt? “Yogurt contains friendly bacteria that cool the system. When you’re travelling, you’re advised to have the local yogurt as it is the best way to acclimatize your system to the surroundings,” says Ghildyal. Yogurt is also an easy-to-digest source of protein, so those of you who want to keep away from the heat-producing chicken, fish and egg, this a great option. “You can have it as buttermilk, four-five times a day, or hang it and use it as dips and dessert. I sometimes layer it over sponge cake, drizzle on some honey and nuts for a great dessert,” says Ghildyal.
In Indian food, coriander is a popular garnish. “But for all traditional food practices there is a reason and coriander is used in subcontinental food because of its cooling and digestive properties,” says Ahuja. Coriander (also known as dhaniya, kothmir or cilantro) aids the digestive system at many levels. Like mint, it is antibacterial and an appetite stimulant. It also has anti-pyretic properties. “It binds with the toxins in your body and flushes them out,” adds Ghildyal. Dry coriander treats diarrhoea, chronic dysentery and prevents acidity. Chutney made from dry coriander, green chillies, grated coconut, ginger and black grapes without seeds is a remedy for abdominal pain due to indigestion.
Almonds (soaked overnight in water)
Those of you who think almonds have warming properties, don’t get confused. Almonds, when soaked in water and with the skin peeled, have the exact opposite effect on your body. “According to Ayurveda, soaked almonds have cooling properties and recipes such as badam kheer and badam sherbet have evolved to relieve exhaustion caused in the summer and simultaneously to cool your body,” says Prof. Pant.
Again, don’t confuse the green variety with the regular brown variety of cardamom, which is considered a warming spice. Green cardamom, a sweet, cooling spice, is considered the queen of spices. “Green cardamom has anti-emetic properties,” says Prof. Pant, which means that it is effective against nausea. It aids digestion and stimulates the appetite.