The key to cooling down this summer could be changing up your diet

Looking for a way to stay cool this summer? Doctors say changing what you eat can help — but some of the types of foods they’re recommending may surprise you.

“To understand why certain foods might help you cool down, we first need to take a step back to understand the science behind hydration — and dehydration,” said Dr. Tinisha Cheatham, the physician-in-chief for Kaiser Permanente’s Baltimore service area.

Cheatham said knowing how certain types of food affect your body temperature could help you adopt a “cooling diet” in the dog days of summer.

“The key is to think about what foods actually help us to keep our bodies cool,” she explained, in an aim to help promote sweat.

Some foods on that list are obvious. Others may have you scratching your head and questioning conventional wisdom.

“The more water that’s in a food, the better it is at helping us keep our temperatures down,” Cheatham said.

So that means fruits, like watermelon for instance, are obvious choices.

“Another example of a cooling food is mint,” Cheatham said.

She explains that mint contains menthol, which stimulates cold receptors in your body. It also reduces inflammation.

“When we reduce body inflammation, that also helps us reduce body heat,” she said. “In the United Kingdom, researchers found that peppermint oil was actually useful in reducing symptoms of hot flashes.”

But then — there’s a big surprise.

“One other group that might seem counterintuitive to staying cool is spicy foods,” Cheatham said.

She said it all goes back to the science behind cooling down — and the role sweat plays.

“If you’re cooking with fresh ginger, cayenne, red chili — they have this cooling effect,” Dr. Cheatham said. “Spicy foods make you sweat, which is what we want. When sweat evaporates, it actually cools our skin down.”

Cheatham added that it’s important to note staying cool this summer doesn’t mean you have to completely overhaul your diet to eat these foods. She said eating a balanced diet, while integrating these foods in normal ways can have an overall cooling effect.

For example, if you like to eat fruit in the morning, make that fruit watermelon instead of your normal choice.

Or, if you’re having a barbecue as the sun bears down, and want to add a little extra seasoning, know that science could be on your side.

“I’d also recommend drinking enough water, and getting at least 20 minutes of exercise in a day to help sweat and regulate that body temperature,” Cheatham said.

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Matt Kaufax

If there's an off-the-beaten-path type of attraction, person, or phenomenon in the DC area that you think more people should know about, Matt is your guy. As the features reporter for WTOP, he's always on the hunt for stories that provide a unique local flavor—a slice of life if you will.

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