by Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
July is the height of the summer many of us long for all year, and often one of the warmest months. The produce begins to come in at a steady rate, weather permitting, and different flowers pop up everywhere, which attract the critically important bees, birds, and butterflies! The beautiful hills, woods, and fields of Vermont turn a deep green color and are very lush and fragrant—this is an incredible place to live! It’s a time, among many others, when we all should be very grateful to live in this special place. I love all the seasons in Vermont but the summer always seems to fly by and I try to make a point of appreciating this heavenly place every day!
July usually brings many hot days and lots of sun. We all have to focus on staying cool and comfortable and that means paying attention to our exposure to sun, staying adequately hydrated and watching out for signs of heat stroke.
Do you ever feel like you are wilting under the summer sun and your energy is zapped? I know when I do that means it’s time to find a cool shady place to rest and hydrate, to allow the body to perk up once again. It’s easy to get busy while either working outside, walking around in the sun, or engaging in various activities and to forget to replenish those fluids lost. The majority of the time we are not attentive to the signs and symptoms of dehydration. Rather than reach a critical state of exhaustion and the possibility of passing out, make sure to drink several quarts of fluids daily. Some common symptoms of dehydration are headaches, nausea, fatigue, irritability, and light-headedness. The amount of fluids needed daily will vary for everyone based on their activity and individual needs, but it’s usually around 2-3 quarts daily. Fluids do not have to be just from water—they can come from teas, seltzer, mineral water, juices, and even many fruits and vegetables that have high water content like melon, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, and citrus fruits. Caffeinated drinks can provide hydration but large amounts of these as well as alcoholic drinks can have the opposite effect so be cautious with those as a source for fluids. Many sweetened drinks can be counted as fluids but with them comes a lot of hidden calories and frequently large amounts of sugar, and these are not as quickly absorbed into the cells of your body as water and diluted sweetened drinks. Keep in mind every 4 grams of sugar in drinks is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. Other ways to obtain fluids are cold fruit or vegetable soups, popsicles, and fruit ices. When we perspire, there is often a loss of electrolytes (sodium and potassium); sodium is not difficult to replace but potassium can be so it’s a wise idea to eat good sources of potassium every day such as bananas, berries, melons, sweet or regular potatoes, and dark green vegetables.
Some of my favorite ways to get fluids in is by adding a zest of lemon, lime, or orange to my water. I prefer to use organic fruits since I am using the peel. This I find to be very refreshing and thirst quenching. I also like to add a bunch of mint leaves to a pitcher of water and have that on hand regularly. If you want a little more flavor in the water but not all the sugar, just add a little juice!
Apart from the fluid issue, another concern in the summer is exposure to sun. Sunscreen is especially important due to increased risk for skin cancer, but take care of your eyes as well by using sunglasses and by consuming foods that are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds help form eye macular pigments that help to prevent eye damage from the sun’s damaging rays. Some of the best sources of these antioxidants are kale, spinach, collards, broccoli, fresh corn on the cob, peas, and eggs. Make sure you consume some of these eye-protective foods and wear sunglasses or a hat too!
Check the next page for some recipes to help keep you stay hydrated this summer!