The summer heat can suffocate even the most voracious appetite. Cultures around the world each have their creative methods for staying cool -- spicy foods are the choice around the equator, while others drink hot tea to make their sweat glands work overtime.
But who wants to be sweaty when it's already sticky outside? What we want are some healthy, refreshing foods -- preferably snacks that satisfy those recommended daily allowances (RDA) for essential vitamins and minerals. So we talked to registered dietician Sharon Saka, of Suffern, New York, who says our best bet is to avoid hot foods and heavy meals, and take advantage of summer's fruits and vegetables. Saka recommends eating smaller amounts more often, and says staying hydrated is essential -- at least 6 to 8 cups of decaffeinated fluid a day -- especially if you're outside and exercising.
So here are 10 superfoods to help you stay cool this summer. And the best part: many of these snacks are great meals in themselves!
Kiwi, Papaya, Raspberry Fruit Salad
When the heat is on, just about any juicy fruit is refreshing and delicious. Kiwi, papaya, and raspberries are a powerful combination because they're each packed with cancer-fighting vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and beta-carotene. In fact, both kiwi and papaya rival oranges for their vitamin C content -- one kiwi contains 117 percent of the RDA and papaya a whooping 313 percent. Vitamin C is, of course, crucial to our immune system, and some studies show it may reduce high blood pressure.
Papaya and kiwi also add potassium to your diet, which helps your body stay hydrated, regulates your nerves, heartbeat, and blood pressure. And 67 percent of your RDA of vitamin K can be found in papaya. This under-rated vitamin is necessary for normal blood clotting, and it helps your body absorb calcium, which is especially important for people at risk for osteoporosis.
Raspberries win in the fiber category with 8 grams, and they're rich in vitamin C as well. In addition to its regulatory qualities, the right amount of fiber is linked to a decreased incidence of colon cancer, and it helps keep cholesterol levels lower. Now, add some protein to this fruit salad -- low-fat cheese perhaps? -- and you have a full meal.
Recommended Serving Size: 1 kiwi, about 46 calories 1 medium papaya, about 119 calories 1 cup raspberries, about 64 calories
Chickpeas and Green Salad
A crisp green salad is the perfect light dinner for steamy summer evenings, especially since no oven is required. Trade in your iceberg lettuce for spinach and get a Popeye-size dose of iron.
Add some chickpeas to it for a protein and fiber bonus, plus 20 percent of your daily folate needs. Folate is essential to red blood cell growth and has been shown to prevent birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Chickpeas are also rich in vitamin B6, which aids in the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and has been used by nutritionists for PMS relief. Mix in some cherry or grape tomatoes and you get more fiber, plus 19 percent of your vitamin A.
Recommended Serving Size: 1/3 cup of chickpeas, about 115 calories 3.5 oz. of spinach, about 24 calories 3.5 oz. of tomatoes, about 17 calories
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