Sunday, May 20, 2012

Handy nutrition tips for the summer months

     “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” said Hippocrates and there is no better way to directly apply this than in these sweltering months of summer. Let’s face it, Chennai is especially hot through most months of the year so making changes in your food habits can lead to lasting resistance to heat.

     Ever felt fatigued and drowsy on a hot day? That’s an early warning signal of dehydration. Without question, you’ve got to focus on increasing your own and your family’s water intake. Especially young infants and toddlers (see box) and elderly members.

     2 - 3.5 L is the expected range of water intake in summer months. If you are taller, your requirement increases. Also, if you’re exercising, add 400 ml to your total daily intake.

     Eat seasonal foods, watermelon, other melons, maize (cholam), etc are in abundance. These are generally cooling and easily available. Nature does everything for a reason.

     Switch from rice to whole grains like brown rice, millets like ragi, thinai and samai for better digestion. Use whole grams (channa, moong, rajma, karamani) as well instead of plain dals.

     Tender coconut water, curd and buttermilk are great coolants. Did you know that the humble fenugreek seed (methi) also has cooling properties? Soak methi seeds for 3 to 4 hours, retain the water and drink along with a little lemon juice (it may be bitter). If you leave the moist soaked seeds to sprout - their cooling properties are enhanced. Include this in salads and raithas at meals, you can have this every day – especially since methi lowers blood lipid levels and helps Diabetics control their blood glucose levels.
Drink fluids in the form of low fat milk, rasam, juices without sugar, etc.

     Cut down on the junk foods and sweets – biscuits, instant foods, bakery items like puffs, sweets and desserts, deep fried foods, greasy heavy foods like pooris, etc contribute to increased body temperature. These weigh down our gut, which is already a little sluggish in higher temperatures (notice that you have a reduced appetite in summer?).

     Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables (especially green leaves and salad veggies) – these have a high moisture content and keep your gut healthy. Their antioxidant content helps fight UV related sun damage.

     Say no to high fat ice creams – go in for low fat gelatos or sugar free slushies (home made as far as possible)

     Use less salt, avoid salty snacks and pickles – these contribute to water retention. Avoid sugary drinks and foods for the same reason.

     Alcohol (even though a cold beer sounds good) actually dehydrates and heats the body.

For young infants:
   -  If breastfeeding, increase your own water 
      intake to 3.5 L and feed more frequently.                                
   -  Don’t place babies directly under the fan.         
   -  If  going out, cover them up in light cotton 
      (they get sunburns easily) and ensure 
      circulating air at all times.
·         Warning signs of dehydration – refusal to eat or drink, reduced urination, vomiting and diarrhoea.

         If you care for elderly folk at home, their water intake needs to be monitored as well since they are also susceptible to dehydration.As you age, the thirst mechanism declines so it's important to create a habit of drinking water regularly so the requirement is fulfilled.
    This article was published in 'Life in Adyar', Chennai -  April 28th, 2012.

        I know this comes a little late for Bangaloreans and Mysoreans who are dancing in the rain, but still relevant for us overheated Chennaites .

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