When Sly and the Family Stone sang "Hot Fun in the Summertime," we don't think they were talking about eating habanero peppers on a steamy July afternoon. But there are many places (most near the equator) where folks use spicy foods to cool down.
When your body's built-in thermostat (in your hypothalamus) senses your core temperature is over 98.6 F, you sweat. As each drop of moisture evaporates, it cools you. Since spicy foods make you perspire, eating them will provide a cooling sensation.
But if you're lookin' to chill out, there are other foods that can lower the heat without the pepper burn.Water-rich foods slow digestion (so your body isn't working so hard), rehydrate you, and - if you pick the right ones - replenish minerals and vitamins lost through perspiration. Our favorites include:
Watery fruits: Watermelon, 90 percent water, delivers 25 percent of your daily vitamin C, plus artery- and prostate-loving lycopene. Juicy cantaloupe? Every cup contains 17 percent of your daily potassium needs. Great for post-exercise muscle care. Also with a cooling blend of water and nutrients: frozen grapes, oranges and cucumbers.
Salads: Toss fruits with iceberg (95 percent water and no nutrients) and arugula or red leaf lettuce (less moist, but nutrient-dense).
Sweet treat: Mashed, frozen banana (lots of potassium) with vanilla flavoring or real chocolate chips! FYI: Two summer favorites that aren't great for cooling - ice cream (the high fat content stokes your inner flame) and a cold beer (alcohol dehydrates, so you sweat less). Drink about 16 ounces of water for each beer you have.
© King Features Syndicate