If the searing heat is taking its toll on you, it may be time to take stock of what you are eating

“This time, it's hotter than last year,” that's what everyone is saying these days. And this time, it is no exaggeration. Soaring temperatures are leading to cases of heat exhaustion – a rarity here. But don't let those television commercials fool you into buying fizzy drinks to quench your thirst. What you eat and drink need not always cool you.

Drink water

Liquids in the form of water and fresh juices trump everything else in extreme heat. Mini Mary Prakash, chief clinical dietician, PRS Hospital, adds that it would do good to up one's water intake from the usual two litres to anywhere between 3.5 and four litres: “Green tea is recommended instead of regular tea as it has less caffeine. Alcoholic beverages, chilled drinks, even iced tea won't help as they have a diuretic effect, leading to more loss of water from the body. Chilled drinks constrict the blood vessels and obstruct sweat.”

She also advises adding a few sprigs of mint to one's early morning cup of green tea. “That's no substitute for water,” says Jayasree N. S., senior dietician, KIMS. “One can drink up to 15 glasses of water every day.” She adds: “Coffee beyond the normal limit will only add to the heat as it contains caffeine. Chocolates also increases body heat,” says Jayasree.

Milk, that too low-fat, and curd, also in variations like buttermilk, are recommended as it also provides calcium. Tomato juice is also great for the weather as it provides lycopene. “Lycopene helps repair the body's tissues. Cucumber, musk melons or water melons are good too as they are high in water content.” Those looking to lose weight should skip the sugar when drinking juices. “It is good if those dieting do not substitute fruit juice for water as it can lead to weight gain,” says Mini.

Jayasree points out that people can help themselves best by avoiding foods with fat content: “Avoid snacking on puff pastries, cake, things of that sort as they will surely have fattening ingredients such as butter or ghee to help increase taste and texture. Fried food such as chips and puris should not be had either.”

Red meats are a strict no-no, while chicken and fish are still better, though again not fried. “Everything we have for a sadya is acceptable. As for vegetarians, it is important to keep having pulses.”

Mini says the summer is also the season when people tend to contract food-borne illnesses. “Vendors add ice to fruit juices. This may not always be hygienic. Yoghurt contains probiotic bacteria that decreases chances of food-borne infections. It should be made a part of one's daily diet.”

Save dry fruits like dates, figs and apricots for winter. “The absence of water in them will only make one thirsty. Also avoid sugary foods or anything with honey or molasses as they will make one thirsty and tired. Ice cream and beer, though summer favourites, have a temporary cooling effect on the body. Food that is too salty or spicy adds to the discomfort as they generate heat,” Mini says.

Both dieticians agree on the goodness of vegetarian food in summer. “Christians observe Lent in summer. It is a time when the community follows a vegetarian diet. This has health benefits too,” adds Mini.

For those who didn't know, Mini says cardamom, gooseberry, papaya, mushroom and pomegranate compromise ‘cooling' foods too. Mango, she adds, increases heat: “If you are really craving mangoes, put them in water overnight and then have them as it absorbs the heat.”

So now that you know, bring more of the right food into your diet to stay cool during summer.