What food and drink keeps you cool in a heatwave – and what to avoid

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Twisted: Unserious food tastes seriously good.

ICYMI, it’s hot. Like, really hot. Some parts of the UK are hitting 40 degrees today, which is breaking literal records. 

It can be hard to know what to eat to stay cool when the temperatures soar as high as they are at the moment.

woman with fan

Too hot? Well, here’s what to eat in a heatwave (Credit: Alamy)

There’s so much conflicting information, and frankly, even leaving our fan long enough to walk into the kitchen is a challenge in itself…

So, we decided to ask a nutritionist what to eat and drink and what to avoid in the hot weather –  a heatwave survival guide, if you will.

Follow this advice to the letter and you might just survive the UK’s dizzying temperatures (oh, and put your PJs in the freezer, too. There’s some things that food simply can’t solve on its own).

Don’t overdo: Iced food and drink (yep, that includes ice cream)

You might think iced coffees and ice creams are your lifeline right now in the hot weather, but here’s your first warning: they could actually be making you hotter.

Of course, we’re never going to begrudge you a chilled vanilla latte or a Magnum when the sun comes out, but Jane Hutton, functional nutritionist and chef at The Functional Foodie, tells us that despite the initial cooling boost, anything iced ultimately “creates more heat when you when you digest it,” thus making you hotter in the long run.

“It’s a but like having water after a curry, when actually you need milk to counteract the spice,” she says. “They give you this brief impression of coolness, [but it’s much better to eat naturally hydrating foods] than anything too iced”.

ice cream heatwave

That ice cream may not be the best idea in the long run (Credit: Pexels)

Do eat: Naturally hydrating foods

The main thing to remember in a heatwave is that you’re going to be sweating out a lot of water. So, naturally hydrating foods are particularly important to pack into your diet.

“This includes very juicy fruits like melon, pears, [cucumber, strawberries, iceberg lettuce]…and watermelon is particularly fantastic because you also you’re getting all the antioxidants in you to actually heal your skin,” says Jane.

“In fact, it’s been found that certain antioxidants, particularly from red foods, can actually delay sunburn, which is a bonus”.

Do eat: Salty foods

As well as the water we’re losing in humid, sweaty temperatures, it’s also important we’re replacing the salt lost, too.

“You might drink a lot, but you still need to then keep your intracellular fluids and your minerals balanced,” Jane adds. “So, we need to make sure that we have salt in our diets to replace the salts lost in our sweat”.

Jane suggests salty cheeses like feta and halloumi are great additions, here, as they can be added alongside hydrating fruit and veg in salads.

Don’t go too wild, obviously (ordering a large portion of Maccies chips isn’t perfect the answer here), but a bit more salt than normal in the heat restores the balance.

“In the hot weather, we give salt mix to animals, but we need the salt, too,” she adds. “Even if it’s just a sprinkle of really good sea salt onto your meals.”

watermelon salad heatwave

Anyone for a watermelon and feta salad? (Credit: Unsplash)

Do eat: Lots of potassium

Potassium is another key ingredient to get behind in a heatwave, as it helps reduce blood pressure and allows all your cells to take the exact amount of water they need.

“We need a lot of potassium to keep our fluid levels balanced,” explains the expert. “So, that’s foods like salmon, avocado, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms – handily, all the foods that work well in salads.”

Bananas are also a good source of potassium, as are oranges, grapefruits and apricots. Which means you’d also be wise to knock up a fruit salad for dessert.

Again, no need to go overboard, just make sure some of these are on the menu.

Don’t overdo: Coffee

Unfortunately for the iced latte lovers out there, there’s another reason indulging in multiple cups a day might not be the best idea in the heat.

“Caffeine is a diuretic,” says Jane – this means it helps your body to get rid of water and salt. “So, if you happen to have a coffee, just be aware to have a glass of water or some hydrating food afterwards.”

You don’t need to cut them out altogether, just don’t hail them as the ultimate hot weather cure.

“The main thing is balance,” the nutritionist adds.

iced coffee heatwave

As well as the ice, coffee is also diuretic (Credit: Unsplash)

Do eat: Spicy foods

“If you look at hot countries, they often eat curries and use lots of spices [even in the heat],” Jane says. “The idea is that these can open the blood vessels and it will actually let the heat out.”

Obviously, there are limits to this.

“Listen, you don’t want to be getting your slow-cooker out in this weather,” Jane laughs. “When it’s hot it’s better to eat foods with natural spices and natural thermogenic qualities, as supposed to soups and stews [for the sake of it].”

Thermogenic means foods that produce heat, like chilli, tumeric and ginger. Yup, it might seem counterproductive, but we can’t argue with science…