It’s officially summer, and you know what that means: It’s about to get frickin’ hot. Or, as has been the case here in Chicago, it’s already been frickin’ hot.
As someone who waits until the absolute last minute to give in to turning on the air conditioning, I seek relief from the heat in other ways: I keep my apartment dark and sun-free, keep an eye mask in the freezer, and stock up on foods that not only don’t need the oven or stove, but they also just might cool me down. But is it all in my head when I’m snacking on frozen grapes and slurping down freeze pops? Or is there science to help us properly pack our fridge for heat waves?
We’ve already debunked one hot weather myth: drinking hot drinks does not actually cool your body down. “That is a very inaccurate old wives tale,” thermoregulation expert Douglas Casa told former Takeout editor Kate Bernot. “Drinking warm beverages will warm up your body temperature. Conversely, drinking cold beverages will help to cool you down, which is very valuable during intense exercise in the heat.”
But as Peter Poortvilet, a post-doctoral Research Fellow in Neuroscience at The University of Queensland, writes for The Conversation, those cold drinks will only cool your body down for a short period of time—the cold liquid will be quickly heated by surrounding organs. Based on the way our digestive systems work, the very act of eating and processing foods creates heat in our body, so in that sense, no foods can effectively cool you down. Still, there are some exceptions.
According to Healthline, one of the main ways to combat overheating is to stay hydrated. Drinking water should always be your first priority when feeling the heat, and if you’re feeling peckish, focus on eating water-rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, and celery.
Spicy foods can also provide some relief, in a way. When you sweat, your body cools down. It’s this same logic that likely led to the theory about hot drinks being best in hot weather, though it takes a hell of a lot more tea to get you sweating than one bite of, say, a ghost pepper.
And there’s a lot to be said for the placebo effect. By all means, if scooping yourself a bowl of ice cream or chomping on a popsicles all summer makes you think you’re cooling down, then that does the job. Just make sure you’re drinking plenty of water alongside your Ben & Jerry’s pints and bomb pops, and you’ll survive until the chill of fall hits the air, no problem.