hot sun 

It’s hot outside. And humid. It’s the kind of weather that defines summer. The single most important quest for everyone is how to stay cool. Fans, swimming pools, shade—anything that can take a few degrees off your body feels like bliss.

Did you know you can eat your way to a cooler body temperature? There are a couple of tactics.

Sweat It Out

Many cultures that endure long stretches of heat spice up their food to add fire to the flavor. We aren’t talking about gentle warming spices like cinnamon or black pepper. Think in terms of capsaicins, a.k.a. chili peppers. Capsaicin is a substance found in chili peppers which increases your metabolism and blood flow. It also inhibits Substance P, which triggers your body’s inflammatory process. Of course all you’re aware of is your runny nose and body sweats. Cool!

These physical reactions are exactly what you want. The sweat cools down your core temperature and a clear nasal passage feels cooler.  (This is also why it’s smarter to wear light, breathable long-sleeved clothing in intense heat. You want to develop a light layer of sweat. Plus it protects you from the sun.)

Cool It Down

Chili peppers aside, you’ve probably enjoyed the warming properties of certain spices during cold weather. Cinnamon, black pepper, and nutmeg for example. If some spices are known to have warming properties, wouldn’t it make sense to have spices that had the opposite affect? Spices that could cool your body or at least contribute cooling qualities to summer foods? My search led me to an Ayurveda approach to eating.

Ayurveda is India’s traditional, native medicinal system. It’s also one of the oldest surviving complete medical systems so the scope of practicing Ayurveda runs very deep with philosophy, knowledge and awareness of life. When it comes to Ayurveda and diet there are numerous guiding principles that help you determine what you should eat. Some of these include:

  • the natural qualities in each food.
  • the place and climate where the food is grown, prepared and consumed.
  • the effects of the seasons
  • avoidance of artificial flavors, chemicals, preservatives and color.

The idea is that certain foods, including spices, have qualities capable of warming or cooling your internal temperature. Your goal is balance (this is a simplifed version of the simplified version) Given this heat wave, I wanted to know what were the cooling spices?

  • Mint.
  • Basil.
  • Fennel.
  • Coriandor.
  • Tarragon.

I’ll add caraway and cardamom to the list with a disclaimer. I reviewed about 5 different sites and I found caraway and cardamom listed as both.

Add these to your cooling summer foods such as squash and cucumber. I played around and made a bacon, chard, roasted potato, spring onion mix that was flavored exclusively with caraway seeds (ok, ok…and the bacon fat). Preparing the meal melted me to the ground and killed my appetite so I shoved it into the refrigerator and used something a little more aggressive to chill out: a cold shower. But today I ate my “salad” when it (and I) were nicely cooled and the caraways seeds were perfect. I’ll be making it again…just not when it’s 99 degrees and 85 percent humidity in a house with no central air.

Here’s a 30 second taste test experiment: Take 2-3 caraway seeds and chew them between your front teeth. Taste the seeds on the tip of your tongue. Feel that? Feels cooling doesn’t it? What did you find?