You’ve heard the expression “cool as a cucumber?” It’s true that cucumbers can help you stay cool. That’s because cukes are made up almost entirely of water, so eating one is like sipping a drink. Plus, cucumbers contain caffeic acid and ascorbic acid, compounds that help reduce bloating and swelling brought on by heat and humidity. Make a salad of cucumber slices spiced up with a few spoons of vinaigrette. Cut a cucumber into long, thin slices and add them to sandwiches in place of lettuce. For a cool and creamy dip mix grated cucumber with Greek yogurt, a splash of lemon juice and some dill.
All over the world mint leaves are enjoyed for their cooling sensation and used in soothing teas, balms, ointments. When temperatures are soaring mint’s aroma is sure to revive and renew, so add a few sprigs of mint to fruit salad to bring out its natural sweetness or muddle and mix with your favorite summer cocktail. Easier still, just submerge a bunch of fresh mint leaves in a glass or pitcher of ice water for a rejuvenating mint-infused drink.
As its name implies this supersized fruit is 90% water, yet its vibrant pink flesh packs a whole lot of nutrients, including vitamins A and C, and the antioxidant lycopene. Plus, watermelon is rich in electrolytes sodium and potassium, which we lose when we perspire, making it nature’s perfect sports drink. A crisp slice of watermelon is delicious all by itself, of course, but for a different twist try pureeing it with ice for a slightly sweet and frosty smoothie. Another idea: pour pureed watermelon into molds and freeze into popsicles.
Citrus fruits contain a lot of water, so eating them offers quick relief from the heat. Grapefruit are especially delicious served icy cold and they are low in sodium and loaded with fat-blasting enzymes – a nice bonus during swimsuit season. The classic way to enjoy grapefruit is in bite-size sections or squeezed into fresh juice, but don’t stop there. Try them halved and hot off the grill sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. For an exotic summer salad, mix grapefruit wedges with chopped arugula and fennel and drizzle with some balsamic vinegar.
If iceberg lettuce is your old standby maybe it’s time to be adventurous and try other types of lettuce that have their own distinctive texture and flavor. Arugula, also known as rocket, has a peppery taste that’s perfect with a tangy citrus dressing. Mesclun, which means "mixed," is actually a blend of sweet and spicy greens. Romaine is big and super-crunchy – ideal for hearty salads, while watercress is bright and peppery and even more flavorful served wilted. All lettuces are mostly water, but they are chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals, too, including folate, potassium, plus vitamin C and K to boot. For a really chill salad, mix up your leaves with naturally cooling veggies, such as radishes, cucumbers, celery, cherry tomatoes and bell peppers.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of F-Factor - a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight loss book The F-Factor Diet, and her next book The Miracle Carb Diet will be published in December 2013. she is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and OpenSky.