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.
Donna Janke says
Interesting. I never thought about food in terms of cooling before. I’m so looking forward to summer salads after reading this.
I’m glad this got you excited about summer salads Donna! I hope they are useful as the weather heats up!
Salads are great for lunch or an evening meal during the summer months. I am eating salad and veg now more than ever since I have reduced my carbohydrate intake.
The fruit salad looks delicious!
That is great Phoenica. Most fruit and vegetables are much better carbohydrate options so I’m glad you’re already adding more of them to your diet!
Erica, that fruit and berry salad at the top of this post looks out of this world. I don’t often think about fruit salads, usually its the green leafy ones. I knew that chia seeds were good for you and do use them in many ways, what I didn’t know was to consume them with plenty of water. That works well right now since I am having green smoothies made with coconut water. I’ll be sure to add the chia seeds.
That is great Lenie! I’m excited to hear how adding chia seeds to your smoothie goes. I imagine it isn’t too warm where you are right now, but I hope they help keep you a little cooler as the weather heats up!
Jacqueline Gum says
Oh I love summer salads! Must be because I love summer fruits and vegetables so much! That salad dressing sounds superb! And I never thought of the cooling aspect! That is interesting. Okay…I’ve heard so much about chia seeds, I guess it is time to try them! Fortunately, I hydrate a lot – 80 ounces of water a day! I have been doing this most of my life! Before water was so popular! Your picture has the top of the page is so inviting! YUM!
Wow! 80 ounces of water a day is great. I know very few people who regularly drink that much.
I know chia seeds are really all the rage right now. I’ve even seen recipes for these healthy versions of pudding made with chia seeds. I haven’t tried them but it does look really good – something else you might want to try.
How enticing! I do love me a summer salad especially because in Qatar its summer all year round. The salad dressing concept sounded delicious and I loved the chia seed addition.
Ken Dowell says
None of this stuff is as good as it is when these fruits and vegetables are in season and you can buy them locally at farm markets. So, living where I do, I still have a while to wait but your post certainly has me looking forward to the summer growing season.
You make a good point Ken. These foods are most nutrient rich in summer when they are in season. We aren’t quite there yet, but we are getting very close! (I love summer if you can’t tell.)
Meredith @ The Palette Muse says
This fruit salad looks amazing! I would never have thought of adding some of these ingredients, but the mint sounds really good. This sounds like a great guilt free snack!
I know Meredith. I almost never usually add mint to salads. I love mint. I just often forget to use it!
Marquita Herald says
That fruit salad looks so yummy! You mentioned two of my favorite in your list Erica – jalapenos and okra. My mother was a southern gal so I we were raised on okra, black eye peas, cornbread,etc. All great stuff. Great reminder on the chia seeds, I have a package that’s been sitting in the fridge for the past month. 🙂
You are the first to mention the jalapenos and the okra Marquita. And I imagine you do have a unique appreciation of them having been raise by a mom with a southern background!
Sabrina Q. says
This is a wonderful post! I never knew that beets would help with heat relief. That great! I have to try that. Chia seeds are great too in shakes. They thicken up any liquid. It’s like you are drinking a milkshake but healthier. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Sabrina! I also love how you can use things like chia seeds to make healthy foods taste likes treats. Good point about using chia seeds in smoothies!
Eve Koivula says
Love the idea of cardamon in salad!
It is different, isn’t it? Definitely worth a try.
Ok, now I am just waiting for the days of summer to arrive so I can indulge in one of these and feel the sweat breaking as an icy halo of cool sweeps over me. Sorry, I just went and got all carried away as I imagined chia and cardamon on my salad.
Haha Tim! Your comment totally made me laugh.
My favorite summer salad is a traditional Greek salad. Too many restaurants serve it with lettuce, but that’s not a true version. I do love salads so much when it gets hot outside.
William Rusho says
Very nice recommendations for a salad. Now that it is spring,and summer is nearby, fresh fruit will become more available and I will use some of them right from my garden. Thanks for sharing this with us.
I’m jealous that you have a garden William. I’m sure that will allow you to make lots of great summer salads!
Erica- Now is the time to get into those wonderful salads. I don’t think I could handle the Jalapenos. I am really glad you posted this because I totally forgot about wonderful fruit salads. Fruit salads just cool me off because I think they are refreshing. I also like to add sprigs of mint
I understand Arleen. The jalapenos aren’t for everyone. The funny thing is that my husband and I went to a restaurant the other night and he got served a salad with lots of jalapenos. He isn’t a huge fan, but he said it was more tolerable than he anticipated.
Oh my God! Eric’s the summer salad looks so yummy 🙂
I’m so looking forward to summer salads after reading this. Thanks for the tips x
You’re welcome. I’m glad this got you excited for summer salads!
Beth Niebuhr says
I’ve begun eating more salads now that spring is in full bloom! I love the idea of sprinking cardamom on a salad. I love veggie salads just as much as fruit although that picture of your fruit salad calls to me!
Yes, definitely give the cardamom a try, Beth. I think you will like it!