As we move towards the summer heat, we begin to shed our layers of clothes and turn up our fans. In summer, a salad with a light vinaigrette will be delightfully refreshing. Crisp vegetables and juicy fruit are naturally hydrating. But don’t start there! There are some surprising ingredients you’ll want to use to bring the chill in your salad. Think of these foods as a portable mister that we can spray on ourselves, but from within.
Which vegetables provide the most heat relief?
Quite frankly, most vegetables will be a healthy addition to a salad. But the ones that are in season in summer are crisp, fresh and bursting with nutrients. They also tend to be naturally cooling. So choose endive, spinach, radishes, beets, green beans, eggplant, cucumber, bell peppers, and tomatoes. (Corn is another yummy, cooling summer veggie, but due to almost all our corn crops being GMO, I would go easy on this one.)
Jalapenos or okra anyone?
Add something surprising. Jalapenos grow in summer which is a perfect time for a Mexican salad. I’ve mentioned this before, but spicy foods are perfect for the warmer months. They first heat you up and make you sweat, which then cools you down. It might seem a little counter-intuitive, but go ahead and give them a try! Or go southern by boiling okra for a few minutes and serving it over lettuce leaves. Ok, it will mean turning on the stove (which you might not want to do in those triple digit days), but once it is on your plate, okra is refreshing to the palette.
Go with cooling herbs and spices.
Herbs and spices can be a wonderful contribution with the diet. They add flavor to food, all while helping to heal the body. And many of them can be quite cooling. Take the example of mint. Not only is mint jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but it can aid digestion, all while reducing body temperature.
A great cooling spice is cardamom. Go wild and throw a ½ teaspoon onto your salad for a little kick of flavor. Cardamom may help with everything from digestion to detoxification and even offers protection against the dreaded summer cold. Amazing what you can get out of a little teaspoon! Some other herbs and spices to try in summer are lemon balm, chickweed, turmeric, and coriander.
Toss in the chia seeds for hydration.
Chia seeds are all the rage these days and for good reason. These tiny seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and even protein. They are a great source of the omega-3 fatty acids we desperately need to balance the abundance of omega-6 fatty acids found in processed foods. But, here’s their extra exciting bonus for summer. They actually can help your body stay hydrated through the summer heat. The trick is to make sure to consume chia seeds with plenty of water. Chia seeds have a wonderful absorbent nature which allows them to soak up water and store it for future use. Until we grow a hump, this might be the closest we get to a camel’s existence. Chia seeds are fabulous for marathon runners, but also pretty awesome for those of us just trying to stay cool.
Top it off with the juiciest fruit.
Of course, juicy berries, grapes, and melons are summer’s pièce de résistance. And no summer salad would be complete without some of the most hydrating options thrown on top. But don’t stop there! What about the salad dressing? Instead of pulling out those bottles of dressing, make some with your fresh summer produce. What about a healthy raspberry vinaigrette. Take 1 cup raspberries, ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup balsamic vinaigrette, 2 teaspoons stevia and a pinch of salt. Cool and refreshing and perfect for eating on the porch.
Because those humid and sweaty summer days can be draining, even if you’re like me and relish the heat. So, when you are lying on your couch, praying for a bucket of water to be thrown over you, or just mopping up tears off your cheek after viewing your electricity bill, remember there is another way. Grab a big bowl, your favorite fillings and make a crisp, juicy, healthy summer salad and feel the natural breeze start moving through you.