Best Summer Foods to Beat the Heat and Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is a top priority during the summer season. We all know to drink plenty of water in the summer to prevent dehydration and maintain electrolyte balance. However, switching to a summer diet rich in freshly prepared fruits and vegetables can boost your hydration levels even more and increase your body’s intake of valuable antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Vegetables with high water content to help you stay hydrated and healthy in the summer heat.

Many traditional dietary approaches, including Ayurveda, Mediterranean and East Asian, emphasise adapting our food consumption to what is seasonally available. Summer foods are vibrantly coloured, which means they are rich in nutrients, and also juicy and succulent, and therefore high in water content, making them ideal for maintaining optimal health during the summer season that can deplete our body’s hydration and nutrient levels.

According to these traditional diets, during the winter season we need a diet rich in fats, protein and spices that regulate our body’s homeostasis towards warming and weight stability as the winter cold can deplete our body’s fat stores and tissue resiliency. In summer we need the opposite - foods and spices that regulate our body’s cooling and hydration adaptation, and its tissue flexibility.

Both seasons require foods that assist in a healthy gut microbiome as both tradition and modern research show that the gut microbiome supports our DNA structure and immune system. In summer, these probiotic-rich foods should be consumed as cooling drinks and condiments such as tzatziki, kefir, raita and lassis.

Here is a list of some of the best summer foods to start including in your seasonal diet and a variety of easy ways to prepare them:

Summer Fruits and Vegetables

  • Watermelon
  • Mango
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • Bell Peppers
  • Courgette
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Romaine
  • Corn
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Mint
  • Rose Petals

Summer Probiotic Foods

  • Yoghurt
  • Kerfi
  • Sour Cream
  • Buttermilk

Easy Summer Food Preparation

Watermelon, tomatoes and red bell peppers are all high in lycopene, an antioxidant that protects your skin from sun damage. Eat 1 or 2 servings of these foods about 30 minutes before going out in the sun to get that benefit. All three foods are high in water content so they will also help keep you hydrated, especially when eaten raw.

Tomatoes can be eaten in many different ways, both raw and cooked. You can include them in salads, sandwiches and lettuce wraps as well as in guacamole. They are also delicious when grilled on kebab skewers and drizzled with tzatziki. Cucumbers, believe it or not, can also be braised with tomatoes.

Tomatoes and red bell peppers are key ingredients in gazpacho, a perfect cold summer soup.

We have all enjoyed eating the flesh of a beautiful, sweet watermelon, but you can also juice watermelon for a refreshing summer drink or to make sherbet. Watermelon jam is another summer favourite in some cultures. Watermelon seeds are believed to have a cooling effect in Ayurveda. They are best eaten in the first half of the morning by themselves or in a mixed fruit salad. To prepare them, simply save your discarded watermelon seeds, rinse and dry them and then roast them lightly.

Courgette is high in potassium, an essential nutrient for a healthy metabolism. There are many delicious ways to eat courgette in the summer:

  • Sliced in thick rounds and sautéed in olive oil and fresh herbs with Portobello mushrooms, lightly sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt (rich in minerals to maintain electrolytes)
  • Sliced thin and sautéed the same way and eaten on whole wheat flatbread with sliced tomatoes, olives and goat cheese
  • Pared into long spiral noodles as a pasta substitute, tossed in olive oil, lightly cooked and sprinkled with freshly grated Romano
  • Cut into chunky bites and added raw to a romaine salad with red onions and butter beans with a light honey-lime and olive oil dressing

Baby leaf spinach with mandarin oranges, sliced sweet red onions and a raspberry vinaigrette is one of the yummiest summer salads ever!

Berries are very versatile and can be eaten fresh with yoghurt, blended into smoothies or cooked as fruit soups and eaten cold.

Corn contains antioxidants that help protect from sun rays. Another very versatile food, corn can be roasted or steamed and eaten solo with butter and salt or mixed into salads or included in a chunky gazpacho.

Topping off the summer diet plan are cooling drinks and desserts that are delicious, nutritious and help maintain your gut microbiome and electrolytes:

  • Mango Lassi (puréed mango blended with yoghurt, crushed ice, 2 pinches of ground cardamom and a spoonful of maple syrup)
  • Nimbu Pani (a whole lime squeezed into cold, pure water with a pinch of Himalayan salt and raw sugar)
  • Kefir mixed with coconut water
  • Infused water with cucumber, raspberries and mint or basil or any combination of berries and herbs that you prefer. Lavender with berries is also a delicious cooling combination. To prepare simply cut the cucumber into slices, keep the fruit whole and place with the mint or basil in a container of pure water to chill. It is best to crush the mint to get the benefit of the essential oils. Allow the ingredients to infuse overnight.
  • Barley water - one of the oldest summer drinks - To prepare, after rinsing and straining them several times to remove sediment and debris, soak 1/4 cup Scotch or Pearl barley grains overnight, drain off the soaking water the next day and simmer them in 3 to 4 cups pure water for 60 minutes after first bringing the water to a boil. Next, cool the cooked barley in the water and then strain off the water and reserve. Barley water on its own has a mild, nutty flavour. You can add sweeteners such as jaggery, maple syrup, honey, agave or date syrup as well as lemon or lime juice, or alternatively ginger juice for a spicier drink. Barley water has been consumed for centuries by many cultures for its many health benefits including fighting fevers, eliminating kidney stones and curing urinary tract infections. Barley water is best made and consumed on the same day, so make it in smaller quantities. It has a diuretic action, so one glass is enough.

In addition to a nutrient and moisture-rich diet, drinking enough pure water in the summer is imperative to avoid headaches and fatigue. At least 2 litres daily is recommended, depending on your body weight.