Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Foods that keep you cool

Foods that Keep you Cool By: Chef Cristian Feher
With Florida's 100 degree weather, faulty air conditioning, and the growing threat of global warming, it doesn't look like it's getting cooler any time soon. So I thought this would be an appropriate article. Before I give you a list of the foods that will keep your body cool this summer, I have prepared a short and nerdy presentation of how your body's cooling system works. Think of your body as a car engine, but instead of burning gas, it burns food. When it runs it gets hot and when it's hot outside it gets even hotter. And just like your car's engine, it's liquid cooled - it uses fluid to trap the heat and throw it out. But please... not in the pool.

Your body builds up a lot of heat when it has to digest heavy fuel. I'm sure you remember the last time you had a greasy burger and fries on a hot day. You probably felt sluggish, short of breath and very uncomfortable - you overheated your engine. The simplest thing you could have done would have been to eat a leaner, cooler, easier to digest fuel - like a salad or fruit. Salads and fruit are a great hot weather food in that they take very little effort for your body to digest. Less effort makes less heat. And because a salad is cool to begin with, it doesn't raise your body's temperature as much as a hot meal will.

The first way that your body gets rid of heat is through sweating. The blood absorbs the extra heat in your system and channels it out through the sweat ducts. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, the heat goes with it. So you actually want to eat foods that will make you sweat. Notice that cultures which live in hot climates usually cook with a lot of spicy foods. They know that sweating keeps you cool and if you've ever eaten a spicy goat curry on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago, or Jerk Chicken in Jamaica, you know what I mean. "Get me a towel!". Aside from their great taste, hot peppers are your best sweat inducing foods and you should acquire a taste for them if you want to keep cool in hot weather. Hot peppers contain a substance called capsicum which cause your body sweat. These include all types of hot peppers, and anything with cayenne. If you can't handle spicy foods, don't worry. I have other suggestions below.

The second method your body uses to get rid of heat is through urination. That's why we are able to write our names in the snow so legibly. A diuretic is a substance which makes your body get rid of fluids through urination. If you don't like to sweat, I suggest eating diuretic foods, which mostly come in the forms of liquids. Apple cider vinegar, caffeine and cranberry juice are all diuretics, and they will help keep you cool. Coconut water is also a diuretic, which would be tragically ironic if you were ever stranded on a deserted island and needed coconut water to survive! The only issue with diuretics is that you risk becoming dehydrated. So make sure to keep drinking.

The speed and thickness of your blood is also a factor. Thinner blood will circulate more easily through the body with less effort. This will have a cooling effect. Foods that are natural blood thinners are cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon and vinegars.

By following these guidelines you should be able to keep cooler this summer, and if you're lucky, maybe even lose a little weight!

Here is a recipe for the ultimate cool down meal:

Cucumber, Hearts of Palm, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette and a tall glass of Cranberry Coconut Juice

Salad Ingredients:
- 1 Avocado
- 1 Heart of Palm
- 1 hand full of Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 Field Cucumber
- (optional) 5 cold cooked Tiger Shrimp
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Cayenne Hot Sauce
- Sea Salt and Pepper

Put avocado slices, sliced heart of palm, cherry tomato and cucumber slices into a bowl. Put 1/3 cup of olive oil, and a small splash of apple cider vinegar (to taste) over the salad. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

For the drink, mix 1 part coconut water and 2 parts cranberry juice. Add to a glass with crushed ice.

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