Magazine

Food for an Indian summer

Tender coconut water is among the healthiest beverages for summers. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf  

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As the temperature soars, Ameeta Agnihotri lets us in on nutrition secrets to help cope with the heat.

Always earlier than we like, summer invariably overstays its course. Intensely hot, this weather cannot be taken for granted nor can it be forgotten. Along with the high temperature comes extreme thirst. We are always reaching for something cooling, soothing and thirst quenching.

Before you guzzle gallons of iced tea, I’ll let you in on a secret. That ready-made iced tea contains way too much sugar; sweetness that could turn out to be harmful. Instead drink water. Don’t make it too cold, though, because your blood vessels tighten making you to feel hotter rather than cooler. Have your iced tea, though. Just keep it cool, with less sugar, more lemon and mint.

The other option is to reach for aerated drinks. Not only do these contain way too much sugar, they are also packed with preservatives, artificial flavouring, colours and a lot more that’s no good. If you don’t want to drink plain water, try buttermilk or unsweetened fresh juices. Try a naturally cooling cucumber juice with a dash of mint and lime. For those who cannot down it without sugar, add some jaggery. It has a far richer flavour than its evil counterpart: plain white sugar.

Luckily we get tender coconut water at every street corner. Don’t let these life savers go out of business. TCW is perfect to fight our relentless summer heat and it has nutritional value. Some people swear that application on the skin prevents prickly heat. Remember to scoop out the tender coconut and eat it before you discard its organic shell. It contains vitamins, minerals and precious potassium.

Tulsi seeds are traditionally known to be cooling. Add them to your drink, even to the tender coconut water, with a dash of mint.

During the hot months, meat and heavy food take longer to digest. So eat light. Choose non-oily stuff like fresh fruits. Make yourself a watermelon, sprouts, pineapple and cucumber salad, toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon for an extra tang. Try to avoid heavy salad dressings if you can. Not only will your stomach bless you, your calorie intake will reduce too.

During these months, I love eating curd rice, especially when I have that tiny bit of fresh, homemade mango pickle to go with it. It’s chockfull of nutrition and the perfect combination of amino acids for protein. And the added bonus of cooling the system.

One of those tricks Nature plays on us at this time is the sweet, golden, irresistible package: mango. Even a slight over-indulgence can lead to heat-related issues like boils and upset stomachs. Still, you don’t have to go without; indulge but carefully.

For those who want their nibbles, try sweet corn. According to the Chinese, it balances the Yin and the Yang in our bodies. It tastes so much better with a dash of salt and a touch of butter. Just because it is summer, doesn’t mean you will not feel hungry. So make sure your refrigerator is stocked with curd. Add water, salt, coriander leaves, crushed ginger and a dash of finely chopped green chillies to make tasty buttermilk. Or have it plain and thick with a little sugar as a cooling dessert.

Go easy on both nuts and spices in this weather. Nuts take longer to digest and are traditionally eaten in winter because they generate heat in the body. Likewise, spices.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2017 4:37:58 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/food-for-an-indian-summer/article4698659.ece