Two vital nutrients assume greater importance during summer—water and electrolytes. About 80 per cent of our water requirements come from drinking water and beverages and 20 per cent, from food. Good hydration helps maintain optimum body temperature, blood volume, energy levels and body functions. Summer thus is the time to boost your body’s water content.
Electrolytes include minerals like potassium, sodium and chloride. Their functions range from maintaining body’s water balance, helping muscle contraction, to transmission of nerve impulses. Potassium is found in fresh fruits and vegetables, while the main source of dietary sodium and chloride is common salt. Thus it is important to replenish your electrolyte stores frequently in summer to have a fatigue-free day.
Summer is also a time when food-borne diseases prevail. A healthy GI [gastro-intestinal] tract will build resistance. So it is better to include foods in your summer menu that benefit the GI tract eg: fermented foods.
Let’s take a look at food and drinks that are ideal for summer, based on their ability to provide water, electrolytes and maintain a healthy GI tract. Some have made it to the list also because they are refreshing and have varied health benefits.
The topic of rehydration is incomplete without including water in the diet. If you live in hot conditions and spend too much time outdoors, it is recommended to drink at least 12 glasses [250 ml each] every day. Drink more during periods of increased physical activity. Adding a few slices of lemon, lime or orange provides a citrus flavour and encourages consumption. It is best to consume this within 24 hours of intense activity.
2. Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables make ideal summer foods because of their high water content and potassium. Also, presence of antioxidants like vitamin C, carotenoids [beta carotene, lutein], flavonoids [flavanols, anthocyanidins] to name just a few, provide protection against cancer, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s. Pectin, an insoluble fibre in apples, pears and some other fruits, reduces blood cholesterol. The list of benefits is endless. Here’s how to include them in your menu.
Home-made juices: A best option because of greater control over addition of sweeteners [e.g. sugar], cost factor and assurance of authenticity.
Frozen juices: If you want to try something different, freeze the juice of sweet orange, tangerine [santra], lemon, grapes, and melons in different ice cube trays. Use a couple of cubes from each, to make an interesting drink. Keep the trays clean, away from other frozen foods and consume within 48 hours.
Vegetables like tomato, carrot, beetroot, make tasty juices, solo or combined. Mixed juices can be made by combining compatible fruit and vegetable juices like tomato and grape, cucumber and apple.
Aam panna: An indigenous drink made from raw mangoes, sugar, salt, spices and herbs. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium and sodium-chloride. It can be stored in a concentrate form.
Sherbet: In its true form, is a drink made out of fruits, vegetables, flowers, roots and herbs. Make your own by combining fruits [orange, watermelon], with vegetables [carrot, spinach]. Further, add rose petals, either mint or cilantro [coriander] and khus [wala in Marathi]. This proves to be a powerful source of antioxidants and potassium.
Fruit pops: Puree fruits like banana, papaya, mango or muskmelon. Put them in small paper cups with wooden ice cream sticks and freeze. This is a good way to make children eat fruits.
Chilled salads: Combine fruits like strawberry, orange, grape, pomegranate or apple, with vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprout, carrot, green pepper [capsicum] and tomato. Add coarsely ground peanuts/almonds. Consume chilled. You can even convert this into a meal by adding macaroni.
Chutney: Is akin to the Latin American ‘Salsa’ or the European ‘Relish’. It can be made of almost all vegetables, fruits and herbs. For example, vegetable chutneys can include tomato, onion, garlic, pumpkin; herb chutneys can include mint or cilantro; fruit chutneys can include mango, lime, papaya, gooseberry, and dates.
Home-made preserves: Preserves are similar to jams and are made of fruits/vegetables. A murabba is an Indian preserve, traditionally made from mangoes. In addition, vegetables and fruits like carrots, gooseberry, apple, peach, can also be made into murabba.
Give the pickle or sauce a skip and use these chutney options as an accompaniment/side dish.
Cold soups: Home-made soups are nutritionally best. Prepare clear soups of vegetables like tomato, carrot, spinach, beetroot or cucumber and consume them chilled.
3. Chilled dairy products
Dairy products are foods made from milk. They are good sources of protein, retinol [form of vitamin A found in animal foods], vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous. Given below are two categories of dairy products for summer.
Tip: preferably use low-fat varieties of milk.
Fermented dairy products
They are produced by fermenting milk. In fermentation, the milk carbohydrate [lactose] breaks down into lactic acid, under the influence of suitable bacteria. These products offer improved digestibility, intestinal health, taste and shelf-life.
All fermented dairy products do not contain probiotics or ‘live’ beneficial bacteria. These are specifically gram positive bacteria belonging to two genera—Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Products with probiotics need to contain 100 million live bacteria per dose to be effective.
Given below are fermented dairy products.
Curd: Made by coagulating milk with an acidic substance eg: sour curd. Consume plain, sweetened or spicy.
Buttermilk [Chaas]: It is the fluid left over from the butter making process. Add cumin powder or pepper for digestive benefits.
Lassi: Blend curd or yogurt with water, sugar or salt and spices until frothy. Variation: blend with mango pulp to make mango lassi.
Yogurt: Made by adding specific cultures of bacteria [Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus] to pasteurised milk. Consume yogurt as a quick summer snack/ dessert.
Shrikhand: An Indian dessert made out of strained yogurt, sugar, cardamom and saffron. Its variation is Amrakhand, which is made with mango pulp.
Unfermented dairy products
These are a great source of vitamins and minerals as they provide all the nutrients of milk.
Milkshake: It is typically a combination of chilled milk and flavour, with or without ice cream. Make one by blending chilled milk with either, honey or a fresh fruit like water melon. Skip the ice cream/cream to keep it low-calorie.
Flavoured milk: Chilled flavoured milk is a refreshing and healthy summer beverage. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, recently reported that offering children flavoured milk can increase milk consumption. So if a child dislikes milk, add a few drops of vanilla essence and serve chilled. The health benefits far outweigh any extra calories the beverage may now contain.
Smoothie: A typical smoothie is a combination of milk and/or yogurt, fruits or vegetables and juice. Some may exclude milk/yogurt and just be a concentrated fruit/vegetable blend. Take a fresh fruit like banana, mango, musk melon, or chickoo. Add milk, yogurt, orange juice, sugar and blend. For a vegetable smoothie, blend tomato, carrots and cucumber with yogurt.
Thandai [minus bhang]: Though it is popular during the festival of Holi, don’t limit its consumption to just then. It is made from milk, sugar, saffron, cardamom, poppy seeds [khus khus], almonds and pepper. It is a refreshing chilled drink and its varied ingredients offer digestive and anti-carcinogenic properties.
4. Other foods
Rice water [Kanji]: It is the liquid left over by overcooking rice with excess water. It can also be made by cooking rice powder and water in equal proportions. Salt is usually added. The starch is an energy booster and the salt provides sodium-chloride.
It is also effective for infantile gastroenteritis.
Sugarcane juice: A popular drink, it is a good energiser on a hot summer day. Ensure hygienic preparation, you can add ginger, mint and lemon for better taste.
Coconut water: Comprises 95 per cent water and has a good potassium content. It is the ideal low-calorie drink. Choose fresh tender coconut water over the packaged one.
Finger millet [Ragi] drink: An indigenous drink made of ragi flour, rice water, curd [optional] and salt. It acts as a coolant and is rich in calcium, phosphorous and potassium.
Iced tea: Tea contains powerful antioxidants which protect against heart disease, stroke and cancer. The highest concentration of these is in green tea, followed by black. During summer, consume home-made green or black tea with ice.
Jal jeera: An indigenous drink, contains cumin [jeera] and either rock or black salt. Cumin is an effective digestive. The drink is an excellent cooler and a good source of sodium and chloride.
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