Every year from March till July, South Indian states turn into a frying pan. Spending time in an extremely hot and humid climate, where you are exposed to the direct sunlight may lead to increased body heat. And of course, the consequences may vary from person to person, but – either it’s a boil, heat pimples in different parts fo your body, stomach ache – body heat need your reaction-treatment, or much better – prevention. To add to this, such a condition known as heat stress may be due not only to the weather – extreme heat that you’re experiencing in this particular season of the year in India but also to certain foods. And knowing what to eat during summertime, will be a spine of today’s post – knowledge that Indians pass from generation to generation, all this is in their bones so if you’re expecting easy-nature based solutions, that’s the post for you! Have a look at what will and what will not help you during summertime in India.
Based on my experience staying in India, Indians follow many Ayurvedic traditions naturally and that is really an inseparable way of their lifestyle. No one will say – “I’m doing this or that because it’s Ayurveda”, they’ll rather say: “It’s good (or not good) for health”without giving you any rational point why. Indians live lives unconsciously and beautifully united with Ayurvedic traditions. For outsiders like me, who initially was completely not interested in any alternative ways of living than western logic, it was difficult in the beginning to believe that if ie I eat lots of mangoes one day it will lead to trouble in my digestive system. I never imagined that food has an effect on body temperature and that in fact, food can be divided into hot and cold foods based on the internal nature of the food product. Simply put, Ayurveda recommends whether a particular food item has a cooling or a heating effect inside our body which in turn has an impact on our metabolism and digestion. Briefly speaking, the kind of food we consume has a great impact on our health – especially in extreme conditions like Indian summertime.
But, before I list everything I met/experienced in India so far – directly or indirectly – regarding body heat and how Indians deal with it, you need to realize – and it’s a must to mention – that any support for your body will do nothing if you do not drink enough water during the day. Proper hydration is the first and most important step to keep your body in good health. Second of all – keeping your body fresh daily, either by taking a bath or shower, is another primary solution to keep you fine during hot temperatures. And here it comes – food that supports heat control of the body. Enjoy the list, no matter if you’re in India, planning to visit India… or simply you’re elsewhere.
Food items that have a cooling effect for our body
I wouldn’t be myself, living in South India – paradise or coconuts, if I had not started with tender coconut water.
Coconut, especially in south India, is celebrated as a symbol of prosperity, an auspicious fruit, handicraft item, and an ingredient for cooking.
Coconut water is a great way to refresh and revitalize your body. It helps in replacing the lost fluids and replenishes electrolyte imbalance. The vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes in coconut water rehydrate your body when you have heat stress. Tender coconut water contains 94% water and is low on fat. It is also full of essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C and a wealth of minerals including sodium, potassium, calcium, manganese and magnesium. And to add to all those – it’s very tasty! Who’s in for a coconut drink this summer?
As I live in Tamil Nadu – the southern state in India, apart from coconut water, the excellent and popular food for hot weather here is pananga fruit (you can meet also other names as nungu or ice apple). The delicious and highly nutritious pananga is the tender fruit of palmyra tree. It is a natural coolant for the body, so – similarly to coconut water, helps to cool the body during summer and clears out the toxins from our body.
#Extra tip for tender coconut and pananga Apart from its revitalizing properties, coconut water helps also in weight loss, facilitates digestion and lowers blood pressure.
Foods high in water content
India’s climate is classified as a hot tropical country, except a few northern states. In such weather – much water content food will be available and advisable to eat during summertime – fruits such as: cantaloupe, watermelon, pomegranate or citrus fruits like oranges, lemons etc should be consumed daily during the hot months as it is a good cure for internal and external heat. Similarly water-rich vegetables: cucumber (unfortunately, from my experience I do not see many Indians eating/using this vegetable on a daily basis), and cauliflower (gobi). All these are extremely rich in water and have a nourishing effect, an excellent natural remedy to control body temperature.
#Tip for watermelon It must be consumed in the first half of the day as it is very rich in fiber. Consuming it in the latter half of the day might not be good for the stomach.
Curd rice / buttermilk
It may seem too simple but Indian curd (unsweetened probiotic yogurt) makes wonders. Curd rice is a very easy dish made by mixing soft-cooked mushy rice with curd and salt, tempered with a pinch of mustard, red chilies, curry leaves. Almost every south Indian, unless they are lactose intolerant, will end their meal with a serving of curd rice. Some of them may also suggest you not eating it during evening time if you are prone to cough and cold as curd leads to mucus development. So better – curd/curd rice – lunchtime recommended!
#Extra tip for curd rice – it is also used for indigestion or lose motion because it is a source of probiotics. Eating curd helps to restore healthy microbial balance which, in turn, helps in better digestion.
Another suggestion that utilizes curd in the Indian kitchen is buttermilk (a fermented dairy drink). Made of watered-down curd and spices like pepper, jeera, ginger, coriander/curry leaves, salt and green chillies, this drink is most commonly suggested to have once you finish your main meal.
Pulicha Kirai Plants Gongura or sorrel leaves
Gongura or sorrel leaves are perennial leaves that has many culinary and medicinal uses. It is very popular in South India (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu). I’ll not lie if I write that sorrel is a very, very, very tangy, acidic herb and for the first time users, the taste will be a bit unusual. But, once you try – you’ll add this taste to your favorite ones! It’s all about colors and tastes in India, isn’t it? Its sour taste comes from oxalic acid but it had to cool the body down properties.
Ragi – finger millet
Another superfood that Indians use to stay cool during summer is ragi (finger millet) flour. In Tamil Nadu, people prepare kanji drink out of it – simply grinding the millets and boiling it with a small addition of salt/sugar (depends on your preferences). This millet works as a cooling agent for the body and, to add to this, is rich in fibre and iron.
Three supporting methods Indians use during summertime to cool down the body
Oils and sandalwood
Apart from food – Indians also support their body by applying oils and sandalwood paste on their skin. Oils such as coconut, amla (Indian gooseberry), almond, castor, or gingelly (sesame) oils are rubbed on the scalp with a belief of cooling the body effect and applying on the body and hair for nourishment. Different oils will cool down the body slightly (coconut oil) or in a very intense way (ie castor oil), depends on the thickness and their properties. Some of the oils will be used for cooking as well as for performing puja ceremonies in many Indian households. Sandalwood is available in a number of forms such as soaps or powders. Applying this or rubbing it regularly on the body has a cooling effect. Ayurvedic beliefs use this as a constant source of cooling down the body.
Aloe vera’s gel and skin
Last, but not least method I found out during my stay in India is eating an Aloe vera gel. In fact, the Aloe vera itself is a thick, short-stemmed plant that stores water in its leaves, and most of the people use it for healing skin injuries. Few know that its gel and skin are actually edible. Aloe vera juice has traditionally been a part of many Ayurvedic medicines. To prepare the plant for eating it, you need to wash the gel or skin thoroughly to remove traces of latex, which has an unpleasant bitter taste.
However, if you notice any unusual changes, such as constipation you should talk to your doctor about any chronic health issues. Never eat aloe vera skin care products.
Quick tips to survive summertime in India
- Stick to room temperature foods and drinks. Whoever I ask in Poland or Europe, they say that drinking cold water or other iced drinks can help cool the body down during hot weather. But in fact, it only cools down the part of the body it comes in contact with and actually make the body work harder by trying to warm up the cold part of the body that the water had contact with. Working more leads to more body heat.
- Wear non-tight-fitting, non-synthetic clothing (cotton advisable during hot temperatures). These types of fabrics don’t breathe easily, nor do your skin.
- Avoid eating spicy, oily, or fried food as it can contribute to heat stress.
- Similarly: avoid consuming drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- Try not to do intense physical exercise.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can lower your body’s ability to sweat to cool you down and support a normal temperature.
Sometimes, unknowingly we consume foods that are detrimental to our health and well-being. Even if you don’t much follow Ayurvedic theories, just give a try once – coming summer to check and eat what may help your body maintain proper body temperature. I hope you’ll give it a try and will not regret it!
The information presented in this article is my personal opinions that came from observation, discussion, and experience living in India. I am not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All appearing in the article do not reflect my views and I do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. With this post, I am not providing any medical, legal, professional advice. Before trying any of those – check your medical condition and – if needed, consult with the doctor. One is taking all the provided information at his own risk.
I would love to hear your comments on this! Have you heard about food that cool down your body? Do you eat consciously during summertime? Do you know any other food or way of keeping your body cool during heat time? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of yours? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.