It’s summertime, and while you’re probably craving ice cream and cold beers in the hot sun, ultimately, you’ve got to add heat to what you eat to stay cool. Yep, that means choosing curries over Coolattas.
We talked to Barry Swanson, a professor and food scientist at Washington State University, about which foods can spike your body temperature, and which ones keep it down. “Cold foods are perceived as cooling down the body, and often they do, but spicy foods do the same. Spicy foods and cool foods just work in different ways and do different things,” says Swanson.
Foods That Make You Hotter
Ice cream: It turns out the fat content in ice cream actually makes your body warmer. “Foods that contain more fat, protein, and carbohydrates often heat the body up a little bit while digesting food,” says Swanson. “The sheer temperature difference gives a cooling sensation, but when your body starts to digest, you feel warm because your body has to provide energy to digest that food product. Fat is notorious for moving slowly through the digestive system so it takes more energy to digest that fat. Anytime you are putting more energy through the system, whether it be digestion or weight lifting, your body has a tendency to heat up.”
Brown rice: Complex carbohydrates like rice and other whole grains are also harder to digest, making the body warmer during the process. “Anything with a lot of complex carbohydrates and processed foods like rice and cereal products can be more warming than cooling,” says Swanson.
Beer: Alcohol can dehydrate you and make your body flushed — a process called vasodilatation, which is caused by the widening of blood vessels. This can cause your skin to heat. “When the body starts to vasodilate, you can flush pretty heavily. It is going to be warming, especially in the surface capillaries in your face, so it is going to feel like it’s warming,” says Swanson. This also depends on how much alcohol you consume in one sitting. The more alcohol someone drinks, the more flushing will occur.
Foods That Make You Cooler
Watermelon: As a general rule, the higher the water content in a food, the more likely it will keep your temperature down. Watermelon is chock-full of water, which slows down digestion and takes less energy from the body.
Leafy greens: “Most raw fruits and vegetables are 80-95% water, and anything that contains a lot of water is very easy to digest and goes through the digestive system very quickly, giving you a cooling sensation,” says Swanson. Easy digestion means less energy and heat.
Peppers: Spicy foods can make you sweat, which provides a cooling sensation. “Peppers are often consumed in countries close to the equator because they are perceived as cooling foods primarily because they influence the body when you perspire, and through evaporative cooling, you feel cooler,” says Swanson. “It doesn’t cool you to the core, but it cools the skin.”