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.


Outdoor Summer Exercise: Avoid Heat Related Illness

Photo Credit: Bibikoff CC-BY-2.0

Summer is just around the corner! Warm weather draws people out of the indoors and into the sunshine. Exercising outdoors can be enjoyable, but don’t let heat cause you injury or illness. Exercising in high summer temperatures requires that you take a few extra precautions. You can avoid heat-related illness by exercising outdoors in the morning or evening before the day heats up. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Wear loose fitting clothing that does not trap heat. Stop exercising if you experience any symptoms of heat-related illness.

Your body temperature increases when you are exposed to high summer temperatures. Exercising increases your body temperature, too. To cool down, your body sends more blood to your skin, which leaves less blood available for your muscles. Exercise increases your heart rate. To compensate for less blood flow to your muscles when you exercise, your heart rate increases. High humidity prevents your sweat from evaporating, which increases your body temperature even more. You see how you can push your body into a heat spiral that can leave you suffering heat cramps to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke?

Pay attention to your body and learn to recognize the warning signs of heat-related illness. Heat cramps are muscle contractions that typically affect your legs and your abdominal muscles. You may experience heat cramps, even if your body temperature is normal. Heat exhaustion is evidence by a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheight (40 degrees C) accompanied by nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache and clammy skin. Heat exhaustion is a serious medical condition and must be treated right away or you could suffer heat stroke. Heat stroke is life threatening. You could suffer brain and organ damage. You can die as a result of heat stroke.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience muscle cramps, vomiting or nausea, confusion or dizziness. Stop exercising immediately and take steps to hydrate and cool your body. Drink water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes, remove excess clothing and pour water over your body and fan yourself to cool down.


Safe Summer Grilling

Photo Credit:  Tom Harpel  CC-BY-2.0
Grilling food outdoors during the summer is an American tradition. The savory smell of grilled steaks and vegetables fill neighborhoods all around the country during this time of the year. Unfortunately, many Americans will cook high-fat, high-cholesterol foods like sausages and ground beef. In addition to the unhealthy saturated fat, meat drippings that burn on the coals release chemicals that may contribute to cancer. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when meat is grilled or when fats burn on the grill coals or heating elements. Bacteria is also a potential health concern when grilling outdoors. Handle meats carefully, make lean meat choices and grill more vegetables for a safer, healthier grilling season.
Grilled ground beef patties are a summer fare favorite. Bacteria on meat is normally killed during the cooking process but under-cooked meat can leave live bacteria inside the meat. Bacteria on the outside of ground beef gets mixed up to the inside of the burger patties when they are formed. Cook hamburger patties thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria hiding inside your burger. A 1/2 inch thick burger should be cooked for about 13 to 15 minutes. Meats like chicken, steaks and fish should be cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria inside the meats. The only way to be sure chicken is safely cooked is to use a meat thermometer. The inside temperature of chicken has to reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safely cooked. 
Cook sausages on low heat to avoid charring the outside but leaving the inside under-cooked. Bratwurst and Italian sausages should be cooked over low coals to prevent the skin from burning and splitting. Start with a lean cut of meat and trim all the fat off the meat before grilling to reduce the saturated fats in your diet and to avoid potentially harmful chemicals released when fat drips on the coals.
Try some fruits and vegetables on your summer grill for a tasty healthy alternative to meat. Tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, pineapple, eggplant,  apples, pears, and onions are delicious grilled as a vegetable-fruit mix or as kabobs. Cook vegetables for 10 to 12 minutes over a medium grill. Use marinade for extra flavor.