To get through these scorching days, Naini Setalvad gives us some cool dietary advice which is simple and easy to follow
It’s the end of summer and, throughout the country, it is either hot and dry or hot and humid. This is the worst period. How I am looking forward to the raindrops falling on my head! As usual, one hears of heat strokes, heat boils, coughs, bad throats, dehydration, itchiness, and colds. From the young to the old, nobody is spared this woe. I am constantly guiding people on how to prevent succumbing to the aforementioned diseases, or giving curative advice.
Prevention, of course, is better than cure. It is important to understand that just like you change your clothes with a change in weather, you have to change your food too. The key factor in boosting your immune system is eating according to the laws of nature.
So, let me educate you on how to sail through the end of summer without falling prey to any of the summer diseases. Understand that our body is directly linked to the temperatures outside. So, when the outside temperature is rising, the body automatically wants to cool, and the summer food comes into play here. To remain energetic and not feel limp and lethargic, I am going to share with you the advice that I constantly give my clients and which I too follow.
The key to surviving the summer is hydration and electrolyte balance. It is very easy to do this if you just include certain beverages, fruits, and vegetables. Water should be treated as if it were a separate organ in your body. Start your day with two glasses of water and see how you perk up! I suggest you keep on sipping room temperature water the entire day as it will help cool down the body almost instantaneously. Just see the difference when you sip on water throughout the entire day for a couple of days. I certainly saw a change; my fatigue levels dropped. Water also ensures a moist environment for the ear, nose, and throat, thus helping you breathe freely. It also keeps sore throats at bay.
Other cooling drinks
Water is not the only beverage you should consume during the day. Swap it for a glass of lemon juice and water along with some rock salt and roasted cumin powder. This concoction will help prevent sunstrokes and the Vitamin C-rich lemon juice will give your immune system a boost. Buttermilk made from yoghurt, mint leaves, coriander, ginger, roasted cumin powder, and rock salt, mixed with water, is the best Indian way to cool down. Since buttermilk is rich in friendly probiotic bacteria, it helps keep irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea away.
Losing salt, sugars, and minerals during this time is very common. So, it is necessary to see that your electrolytes are balanced. Coconut water is one of the highest sources of electrolytes found in nature.
Mother Nature has truly blessed us with the perfect seasonal fruits for the summer months. Truly, this is the time to savour some of the local water-based fruits that can be sweet or tangy. My mouth melts when I think of mangoes, raw and ripe. Melons like watermelon and muskmelon, palmyra (ice apple), black plum (jamun), lychees, and peaches are some of our summer fruits. They are rich in natural sugars, fibre, and—most importantly—are full of water. I make sure I eat at least two of these daily to cool me down and quench my thirst.
Munch on cucumbers (which are full of water) with lemon juice and rock salt. For salads, onions and tomatoes with chaat masala, lemon juice, and mint leaves are refreshing. It is a common practice in dry regions of India to put a raw onion below one’s headgear to take away the heat. The onions also help stimulate the mucous linings, which helps prevent summer coughs, colds, and sore throats.
Eat the gourd family
Vegetables cooked in rich gravies are impossible to digest in the summer months without discomfort. One needs to opt for the entire gourd family, pumpkins, cluster beans, and sword beans, lightly seasoned with herbs and spices. Thank God, India is rich in cooling spices, which keep us cool in the summer months! Mint, roasted cumin seeds, coriander, fennel seeds, and natural salts are some of the cooling summer spices and herbs.
Whole wheat, unpolished rice, and millets like pearl millet (jowar), barnyard millet (verghu), and occasionally, amaranth (rajgirah) are good options. The potato is a great grain replacement in the summer months; it is easy to quickly toss up a potato chaat.
Go for sweet-sour
Instead of aerated drinks, go for the raw mango juice (panhaa) or cumin water (jaljeera), and buttermilk. Complement your food with mint chutneys and raw mango pickles. The sweet and sour (khatta-meetha) taste makes your food more palatable, automatically preventing you from reaching out for junk.
I would opt out of non-vegetarian foods as well as eggs in the summer months as they are very heaty and difficult to digest. Common sense tells you to avoid fried food, processed food, white flour, white sugar, and creamy gravies.
By the way, I still recollect my childhood days when we used to bathe in water in which dry neem leaves were soaked overnight, to reduce the itching caused due to heat boils.
Just follow what I have told you and be cool this summer. The secret is to feed your body with foods that keep you hydrated and cool you down, helping you sail through this scorching summer.
Mock Sev Puri
100 gm potatoes, boiled
100 gm tomatoes, thick slices
100 gm cucumber, thick slices
50 gm onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp raw mango, finely chopped
¼ tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
2 tbsp dates (khajoor) chutney (optional)
2 tbsp green chutney
Salt and lemon to taste
• Mash the boiled potatoes and add lemon juice, salt, cumin, and finely chopped coriander.
• Place the sliced cucumber in a plate, put tomato slices on top of it, add a few mashed potatoes, some chopped onions, and then some chopped raw mango.
• Add both the chutneys, sprinkle cumin (jeera) powder, and lemon.
• Garnish with coriander and serve.
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