What do you reach for on a hot summer day to quench your thirst? Ice water, iced tea, iced or frozen something? If you said yes, you are in good company. We’ve been brought up to believe that iced beverages are the best thing to cool our bodies in the summer heat.
But let’s look at what actually happens to our bodies when we ingest cold/frozen liquids or foods:
Normally your body ingests food/fluids and begins the process of extracting nutrition from them, which is, long story short, how we get the energy to live our lives. All of this needs to happen at approximately 98.6 degrees for the myriad of digestive processes to occur in a healthy manner.
When you drink cold liquids, your body’s first response is to expend energy to bring the cold liquid up to a useable temperature (i.e. body temperature.) After your body has warmed things back up, then it can begin the digestion process. This extra energy that is expended to warm up our drinks means our digestive system has to work harder, and that’s rarely a good thing. So, while drinking ice water can make you feel refreshed in the short term, it actually serves to drain energy in the long run.
Drinking cold beverages/eating frozen foods causes your blood vessels to shrink (cold temperature causes contraction), limiting blood circulation and leading to cramps and overall body discomfort.
Drinking cold liquids during or after a meal creates excess mucus in your body, which can lead to a decrease in immune system function, making it easier to catch a cold or other illness. Just as a cold winter's day can give you a runny nose and block up your sinuses, iced liquids creates the same bodily response.
Some are of the opinion that drinking ice water is beneficial because it burns more calories. I argue that we do not want to make our digestive system work harder; instead we should make things as easy as possible for our gut! When our digestive system works efficiently, our body has extra energy to keep all our systems functioning optimally.
Drinking room temperature or warm liquids/food:
Leads to faster and increased hydration.
Natural digestive enzymes are stimulated and therefore your digestion is enhanced.
Food breaks down more easily.
Your bowel movements are better (warm water with lemon in the morning is great for this).
Warm liquids help to purify your blood and increases your body’s natural detoxification processes via your skin, kidneys, and lymphatic system.
Switching to warm water has been found to reduce sugar cravings, helping you maintain a healthy weight.
But, you may ask, how in the world can I stay cool in the heat without ice or a cold drink? Chinese medicine has some great tools to help!
Chinese food therapy recognizes that certain foods have an overall cooling effect on our bodies, while other foods have a warming effect. Believe it or not, these cooling foods will have a cooling effect when they are eaten warm or room temperature. It is common in China during the steamy days of summer to see people drinking hot soup (I know!) made with winter melon, white radish, mung beans, and other cooling ingredients. They know that despite eating something which is hot in temperature, it will be energetically cooling to their entire system.
Here are two delicious drinks, made with cooling vegetables and fruits which will provide cooling energy to your body, replenish electrolytes, and quench your thirst. It is best to drink them at room temperature to receive the full cooling benefits.
Cooling Cucumber Elixir
Refreshing cucumber is the star of this drink. I make this the whole summer long and drink about 3-5 cups of it a day!
1 large cucumber
2 tbsp goji berries
6 stalks celery
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (peppermint or spearmint) leaves and/or 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
8-12 c water
Optional: ½ tsp chia seeds
Cut cucumber and lemon into round slices (DO NOT PEEL, and make sure to wash before cutting!)
Chop the celery.
Add 8-12 cups of freshly filtered water to a pitcher or jar. Add cucumber, lemon, goji berries, and celery to water.
After chopping the sage and/or mint leaves, bruise the leaves (rub the leaves back and forth in palms of your hands for 10 seconds) to release the essential oils, then add to the water.
Let sit, covered, on counter top for 6-8 hours, or overnight. Strain and compost the vegetable matter.
Refrigerate the liquid. Each morning, pour out the amount you will want to consume for the day and let it warm up to room temperature. Add chia seeds to your daily drink if you’d like an additional cooling boost!
Note that nothing in this recipe needs to be exact. Use as much or as little water as you like. If you feel like adding more or less cucumber or anything else, go ahead!
Watermelon Sports Drink
(courtesy of Amy Kuretsky, L.Ac.)
Soooooo delicious and much healthier than sports drinks that have artificial colors, flavors, and tons of sugar.
3 large slices of ripe watermelon (seeded or seedless), or enough to produce 1 1/2 c juice
1/4 tsp sea salt (I like pink Himalayan sea salt because it contains a variety of naturally found minerals.)
1 1/2 c filtered water
Cut the watermelon and discard the peel. Don't worry about removing the seeds at this point!
Place the watermelon chunks in a blender and blend at the lowest speed. The point is to liquefy the watermelon, but leave the seeds intact so that they can be separated using a strainer.
Pour the watermelon juice through a mesh strainer and into a liquid measuring cup. I used about 1 1/2 c juice for my drink. Discard the seeds and pulp that is strained out.
Add the salt and juice of 1 lemon.
Stir thoroughly and add to a 20 oz water bottle. Fill remaining space with filtered water and consume.
Stay cool, and enjoy your summer!
Want to learn more about how Chinese food therapy can support your digestive health?
*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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