Eat Light & Stay Cool

DSCF7627The temperatures are rising and soon the full heat of summer will be upon us. The summer heat can diminish  your appetite. You may not feel much like eating especially when the heat combines with high humidity, but you still have to eat to maintain your health. Eating light and fresh foods can provide your body with all the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy without bogging  you down. Fresh fruits and vegetables taste great, won’t weigh heavy in your stomach and you might even lose a little weight too.

Avoid Fatty Foods

During the summer heat  you should eat light meals and limit the size of your portions. Your body creates heat when digesting food and burning calories. You want to get nutrition without making your body work too hard extracting those nutrients. Fats, grease and oils fill you up quickly but can bog you down. Summer is the time when many people grill outdoors. Limit fried foods and avoid too many burgers and processed meats.  Heavy breads, cheeses, pasta and meats can make you feel lethargic. You can make delicious meals on the grill with light fare, such as shrimp, skinless chicken breasts, fish and vegetables.  You don’t have to sacrifice flavor when eating light. Fresh fruits and vegetables are delicious alone, but you can perk up the flavor of your veggies with your favorite spices. Try some light, grilled lemon-pepper fish or coconut shrimp on your barbecue along with some grilled red, green and yellow peppers.  Stir fry is also a delicious way to enjoy vegetables. Chop fresh peppers, broccoli, snow peas, onions, and cabbage. Stir fry lightly to preserve the crisp and retain nutrients. Top some fresh spaghetti squash with the vegetables for a light dish that will fill you up without bogging you down. Take it easy on the soy sauce as it is loaded with sodium. Choose colorful vegetables and fruit for energy and nutrients including antioxidants. Free radicals are a natural result of cell oxidation, but can lead to cell damage. Antioxidants help to remove free radicals from your cells. Berries, including strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries are a delicious way to get nutrients and rid your body of free radicals.

Stay Hydrated

Remember to drink plenty of water. Dehydration is dangerous and you are especially susceptible to dehydration during the summer months. Eating fruits, including apples, watermelon, strawberries and fresh peaches are not only rich in nutrients like iron and vitamins including vitamin C, they contain water too. Fresh fruits contain natural sugars that can help boost your energy level too. A delicious way to enjoy a variety of fresh fruits is to make a fruit salad. Slice fresh fruits and mix them together well. You can add a bit of fresh fruit juice, or simply enjoy the fruits in their natural juices. Watermelon is delicious after being chilled in the refrigerator. Keep some slices ready for when you need a boost and a cool, refreshing snack.


Stay Cool & Hydrated During Summer Workouts

Bibikoff CC-BY-2.0

The summer heat is sizzling but you can still enjoy outdoor exercise if you take a few precautions. When it’s hot outside your body sweats to help you cool off and stay cool by evaporating and taking heat away as your sweat evaporates. High humidity can prevent your sweat from evaporating. That’s one of the reasons you feel so miserable on high humidity days. Make sure that you drink enough water to stay hydrated. You can’t rely on how thirsty you feel to stay hydrated, so make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.

Drink 2 eight ounce cups of water before you start exercising outdoors on hot days. Drink another 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Carry a bottle of water if you are biking, walking, jogging or running. When you finish your outdoor workout, drink another 8 ounces of water. You can drink other types of fluids if you get bored with water. Dilute some fruit juice with water or try a sports drink in your favorite flavor. Juice and sports drinks can not only keep you hydrated but also replenish carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes. Many sports drinks increase your blood sugar which can become depleted during exercise. Avoid energy drinks that contain caffeine as these can actually increase dehydration and increase your heart rate.

Don’t push yourself too hard when the temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Exercise indoors in an air conditioned gym if the weather is too hot or humid. Learn the warning signs of heat illness. Muscle cramps, headache, dizziness and fatigue may be signs of serious heat illness. Stop exercising, rest and re-hydrate your body. See a doctor if symptoms persist.

Avoid Poison Plants

We’ve talked about how to protect yourself from stinging and biting insects when exercising outdoors, but there are also plants that you should avoid. Many people will experience an allergic reaction on the skin when they come into contact with poison sumac, poison oak or poison ivy. These plants exude an oil called urushiol which can cause a painful, itchy rash and sometimes blisters. The rash usually does not appear before 12 hours after exposure and can occur up to 72 hours after you come into contact with one of these plants. Learn to identify these plants so you can avoid contact and reduce your risk of an itchy rash.  The saying “leaves of three, let it be” is a good way to identify most poisonous plants. Poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak all have three leaves on the end of a stem.
POISON IVY Photo Credit: Stilfehler CC-BY-SA-3.0
 Poison ivy grows in shady, wooded areas. It grows in a low bush or can trail up a tree or fence like a vine. The whole plant is poisonous. The stems, leaves, flowers and the roots can cause a skin rash. You can even get a rash from touching clothing that has been exposed to the urushiol on this plant. Wear long pants and long sleeves if you plan to walk or jog in wooded areas or along a path where poison ivy is growing. A slight brush against the leaves or stems is enough to cause a rash. Poison ivy also grows in residential areas along fences and on tree trunks. Keep fence lines trimmed. Wear protective clothing, gloves and a face mask when removing poison ivy from your fence or tree.
POISON OAK Photo Credit: Tim Vasquez CC-BY-SA-3.0
Poison oak also has a 3-part leave group on the end of a stem and usually grows low to the ground. The leaves have a jagged edge much like an oak leaf. The leaves change color with the season and may be dark green in the spring and early summer but change to a yellow, a rich red or a reddish-black color in the fall and early winter. Poison oak has small green berries that turn to a pale white-green in the summer to early autumn. There is so much urushiol in this plant that the leaves are shiny with the oil. Poison oak, like poison ivy, grows in a low bush or can climb trees and fences like a vine. 
Poison sumac leaves are smoother on the edges and often have a mottled dark green, red, brown, yellow appearance with black spots. The black spots are the areas where the urushiol is excreted. Poison sumac usually grows in damp or swampy areas. It prefers shade to sunlit areas. Poison sumac grows as a small shrub and can achieve the size of a small tree. Each leaf group has a row of paired leaves on the stem with the third leaf on the end of the stem. 
If you do come into contact with one of these poisonous plants, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE OR RUB YOUR EYES. You could transfer the oil to your face and eyes. Wash the affected area with soap and cool water as soon as possible. Wash your clothes and shoes as well. A rash can develop from contact with the oil from these plants on clothes and shoes. Calamine lotion can help relieve the itching if you do develop a rash. Do not pop blisters as this will spread the rash. See your doctor if the rash becomes painful or does not clear up in a few days.