As we age, our bodies lose the ability to regulate temperature as easily as they used to. Now that summer has begun, the scorching heat can be too much to take, especially for seniors. As appetite declines and actions become sluggish, the risk of heatstroke and other heat-related illness also increases.
To combat the challenges of the sunny season, there are cooling foods you can eat, which are not only tasty but also packed with health benefits. We, in Oakleigh of Macomb, would love to share with you the best foods to help soothe you this summer. Here are some of them:
Of all the fruits, avocados contain the highest monounsaturated fatty acids that help cool and nourish the blood. It also digests easily and contains potassium three times higher than that of the banana. Potassium, a water-soluble vitamin, helps you stay hydrated and can ward off heatstroke.
This fruit that is naturally sweet in taste and cold in nature is also high in potassium. Bananas clear intestinal “heat,” add moisture, and eliminate toxins. Are you feeling uncomfortable and nauseous after eating a meal? Just eat a banana to help release the toxins. You can also make a lot of refreshing recipes with them!
According to traditional Chinese Medicine, alkaline-rich berries such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries generate a cold energy in the body. Berries are also a great source of antioxidants and vitamins that help reduce the risk of having cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They also improve brain function and memory. Eat them fresh off the vine or sip an invigorating berry smoothie!
Corn makes a perfect side dish, just like salad or salsa. This summertime staple offers a number of particularly unique benefits for seniors. Corn is a great source of lutein, a powerful antioxidant that promotes eye health. Corn also contains nutrients that help reduce the risk of life-threatening illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
If you want a mild and refreshing drink this summer, coconut water is a great alternative to high sugar beverages like soda and juice drinks. This tropical fruit elixir is low in calories and rich in potassium.
But take note that coconut meat is high in saturated fat, which should be eaten in moderation. On the other hand, coconut milk is a good source of iron, manganese, copper, and potassium. It can be used in place of dairy milk or cream for seniors with lactose intolerance.
Cucumber has high water content. It also comes with a number of health benefits for seniors, including weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improved bone and skin health. Cucumber is a perfect snack — just sprinkle some salt or mix it in your favorite salad or turn it into hydrating cucumber water.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like spinach and romaine lettuce are very easy to digest because they are made of 80 – 95 percent water. They pass through the digestive system quickly while cooling the body. They also nourish the liver while tonifying the blood, releasing toxins from your system.
Iced tea is a favorite summer refreshment. Not only does it cool down the body, but it also comes with a number of other benefits. Studies say that tea helps lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It is also said to improve oral health and strengthen muscles and bones. Drink it plain and iced, add some sugar, or stir in plenty of fresh lemon juice.
Melons are abundant in the summertime and may come in different varieties such as honeydew, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Melons are low in calories and high in water content. They are also packed with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that combats cancer and heart disease and reduces the risk of sun-related skin damage. Quench your thirst with a simple slice of melon or put it in the fridge before eating for a more cooling summer treat.
There are many varieties of mushrooms, but they are generally heat-reducing vegetables. Crimini mushrooms, in particular, contain at least 15 different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can eat them raw, incorporate them in your salad, or add them to your favorite dishes.
Peaches not only make healthy and nutrient-rich snacks for seniors; they are also convenient and versatile. You can eat them raw, baked into pies and cobblers, or blended into a yummy smoothie. Peaches are said to be beneficial to seniors because they help boost eye health, reduce inflammation, decrease the risk of cancer, control blood pressure, prevent anemia, and enhance digestion.
You might be surprised why this spice makes it on the list of cooling foods. According to experts, peppers make you sweat, therefore trigger cooling mechanisms within the body. Professor Swanson says, “It doesn’t cool you to the core, but it cools the skin.”
Sea vegetables such as kombu, nori, wakame, arame, and sea palm are not only cooling but also energizing vegetables to include in your summertime diet. They are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants that boost the immune system, keep the heart healthy, and aid digestion. Sea veggies are also high in minerals to support bone health.
Sunflower Seeds and Nuts
These go-to summertime snacks are rich in nutrients beneficial to seniors. They help prevent the development of chronic illnesses, promote longevity, and fight inflammation, the greatest marker of aging. “Nuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins and minerals that have a synergistic effect of reducing inflammation and its effects on the body,” says Ying Bao, assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Tomatoes are fresh and juicy, which makes them perfect summertime snacks and ingredients for fresh salads and salsa. Tomato contains lycopene, which is believed to lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer and promote skin health. It is also a great source of salicylates, which reportedly help reduce inflammation and help combat heart disease.
Bonus Tips: Making the Most of Summer Foods
Now that you know the best foods to cool down the body and ward off heat in summer, here are a few more key things to keep in mind:
- Eat in moderation. As we get older, our bodies start to change — including our ability to digest what we eat.
- Eat outdoors. Take advantage of the beautiful summer weather by getting some sun and fresh air. If you are taking care of your elderly loved one, make sure that they dress for the weather, use sun protection, and stay well-hydrated. Studies say even a short trip into nature and absorbing a good amount of Vitamin D can positively impact a senior’s health and happiness.
- Eat with someone. According to studies, seniors who regularly share meals indicate higher rates of satisfaction and happiness. At the same time, they report lower rates of malnutrition than their peers who eat alone.
The summer season could be quite challenging for both seniors and those who take care of them. Due to the hot weather, seniors are more susceptible to physical and emotional stress. They may become more irritated with the smallest of things and struggle to accept that the physical signs of aging are preventing them from participating in activities they used to love. These are normal. If you’re a caregiver, be patient and make sure their diet incorporates food that cools them down and keeps them healthy and comfortable.