By Olivia Banks, MSVU Public Relations student

Dr. Jennifer BradyWith the steamy days of summer upon us, many are looking for ways to cool down. What are the best foods and drinks to consume during a heatwave? Is ice water your best bet? The answer might surprise you. We turned to Applied Human Nutrition Professor Dr. Jennifer Brady for her expertise.

Help save the planet one water bottle at a time.

This part likely won’t surprise you: the essential product to consume during a heatwave is water. While water is critical to avoiding dehydration on hot days, Dr. Brady sites environmental considerations. “Keep a reusable water bottle close by in summer. Having a reusable water bottle is important for the environment, but also cheaper than repeatedly buying bottled water.”

Ice, Ice Baby?

Everyone loves an ice-cold beverage on a nice warm day. The refreshing chill is satisfying and will surely cool you down, right? Wrong.

“When you drink cold water, your body naturally warms it up,” said Brady. So icy water doesn’t actually have a cooling effect on the body. It really just comes down to a matter of preference. “If you prefer cold drinks, add ice. However, it won’t internally make a difference.” You heard it here first: room temperature water is the new ice water.

Feeling thirsty? Drink up!

It’s common to feel thirsty on a hot day. However, the feeling of thirst is a sign that you are dehydrated. “By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated,” noted Dr. Brady. “You really should try to drink water frequently throughout the day to avoid feeling thirsty.”

For the love of coffee

Want to swap your warm brew for an iced version in summer? If you love it, of course you can drink it, but beware of the dehydrating powers of sugar-filled beverages and coffee. “Some drinks like cold coffees are dehydrators and make us pee which adds to the dehydration factor,” said Dr. Brady. Want to stay hydrated? Perhaps pass on the cold brews and stick with good old water as much as possible.

Do we need extra electrolytes in summer?

When asked if Gatorade and Powerade are beneficial drinks to consume during a heatwave, Dr. Brady replied, “For most people, no. High-performance athletes may need more of the electrolytes and energy that these drinks contain because they are using them up and losing electrolytes through sweat more than the average person.” But these beverages also come with high amounts of sugar and dye. Most humans get all the fluid, electrolytes, and energy they need from water and the foods they eat. “Pass on these kinds of drinks and go with water and a variety of foods instead,” said Dr. Brady.

You can eat to beat the heat too!

2 slices of watermelonThe best foods to eat in a heatwave are much the same as what we should be eating at colder times of year: a healthy, balanced diet always wins out. But in a heatwave, fruits and vegetables are particularly beneficial. “The fluid in fruits and veggies can help prevent dehydration,” Brady explained. For example, the summertime classic watermelon is more than 90% water!

Hold the salt? Spice?

Much like you’d expect, eating an excessive amount of salty food on a hot day is not the best idea. “Eating salty foods like chips will make your body have to work harder to eliminate the extra sodium in your system,” said Brady. Being dehydrated adds an additional challenge for your body to eliminate sodium. The key is to eat chips or other salty foods in moderation, balanced by lots of water and other healthy foods.

As for spicy foods, opinions are mixed. Brady noted that “spicy foods can prompt your body to increase blood flow and to sweat, which can make you feel cooler.” So when it comes to spicy foods, choose your own adventure (and don’t forget your glass of water).

Should you wait 30 minutes after eating to go swimming?

When the temperatures climb, there’s nothing better than cooling off with a dip in the pool, lake or ocean. But should we wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming? According to Dr. Brady, the answer is no. “There is nothing from a nutrition perspective that proves this belief,” she said. If you feel yourself getting a cramp, then listen to your body and take a rest.

Heatwave nutrition 101

There you have it – you’re now ready to plan your snacks and drinks for that next beach day. And, as you do, keep these words of wisdom from Dr. Brady in mind: “Bottom line: be mindful. Follow basic healthy eating habits. Focus on whole grains, protein, and only eating when you’re hungry. You don’t need fancy stuff – at the end of the day water will do the trick.”

Happy hydrated summer!

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