Summer. We crave it and celebrate it’s coming. When it does, we look up at the sun, close our eyes and feel the heat warm our bones. But, after the summer solstice (and even earlier as the climate changes) the dog days of summer start to reign and we seek ever more outlets to cool off, cool down, and stay cool while doing so.
Here in Durango, Colorado not only does it get hot in the summer, but the 90+ degree heat is powerful and penetrating at 6,512 feet of elevation. Us mountain folks know a thing or two about what it takes to stay cool.
The most common ways to keep cool are to stay out of the heat, hydrate, use ceiling and portable fans if you don’t have AC, take cold showers and baths, ice up your washcloths to ware around your neck, and finally, stay out of the heat during the hottest part of the day between 12 and 4pm.
Here are a few not so obvious, yet effective ways keep your cool this summer (other than escape to the high country where the temperatures usually don’t soar above the 70’s!):
1. Take Vitamin C
Researchers at the University of Alabama found that vitamin C increases your tolerance for heat by delaying sweat gland fatigue, which reduces the occurrence of heat exhaustion and prickly heat rash. Additional research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology: Respiratory, Environmental, and Exercise Physiology, found that vitamin C also keeps your body temperature from rising during heat exposure with a dose as small as 250 milligrams.
If you’re looking to increase your vitamin C intake naturally, try adding citrus to your summer salads and smoothies, such as oranges and grapefruit.
2. Join the Houseplant Craze
Houseplants are not only beautiful and good for filtering your indoor air, but studies show they can improve mood and also make a room feel cooler. Plants release moisture into the air (which is greatly needed in dry and arid climates), which helps regulate the humidity of a room, making it feel more comfortable than it would otherwise.
There is also a new natural air filter that equals having 3,000 plants in your house, called Briiv that not only helps to cool your home, but is lovely to look at and keeps your air clean as more people (with germs) come and go inside your home during the summer months. Check out the Sustainable Marketplace for info on Briiv and the Durango Sustainable Business Guide for info on Botanical Concepts to shop locally for houseplants
3. Spice Up Your Eating Habits
There’s a reason spicy food is so popular in places with hot climates. Did you know that eating something hot is a great way to cool down and stay cool? Here’s how it works: Capsaicin, the substance in peppers that makes spicy food spicy, binds to the pain receptors in your mouth. In response, your brain interprets this as being hot, and makes you sweat, and the sweat on your skin subsequently cools you down.
Eating spicy food may send an initial flush of heat through your body but this heat makes the skin sweat. Once air makes contact with sweat on your skin, it starts to cool down the body’s temperature. The best part is that your body does this automatically without raising your body temperature, making it an effective way to be cool—and who doesn’t want that?
Nothing says summer like barbecue and corn on the cob! This hearty bowl pictured here from Sage Restaurant features a nutrient dense mix of quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, and farro, topped with local mixed greens, jalapeno black bean salsa, fresh roasted corn, red onion, Zia tortilla crumbles, avocado, Palisade peach BBQ sauce, and buttermilk dill ranch dressing. Add BBQ pulled pork or tofu for an extra hit of protein and enjoy this flavorful bowl!
Tip: Add hot peppers to your homemade summer salads and sandwiches. And, when eating out, ask for extra peppers!
4. Add Mint to Your Daily Routine
A glass of mint tea or a relaxing mojito is a great way to make your insides feel cool and happy. Mint contains menthol, a substance in the plant that works the opposite way capsaicin does, instead tricking your body into feeling cold. It’s easy to grow your own mint for an easy grab when you need to cool down.
You can also chew on a mint leaf during the day or make a mint and water spray to spritz your skin, providing both evaporative and mentholated cooling. Plus, your breath and skin will give off a fresh minty scent.
5. Eat & Drink High Water Content Foods
Being dehydrated is a quick way to overheat in the summer. Stay cool by adding in extra water whenever you can. Seasonal produce like watermelon, cantaloupes, peaches, blackberries, and cucumbers contain loads of water. Plus, they’re easy to digest!
Pictured here is the Blackberry Sage Lemonade special from Sage Restaurant—a summer favorite, made fresh with pure cane sugar, real lemon juice, fresh muddled sage leaves, and blackberries.
6. Soak Your Feet
Grab a nearby bucket and fill it with cold water from your hose to soak your feet. This simple indulgence works wonders to cool you down and fast. Why does this work? Pulse points are spots on your body where blood vessels are very close to the surface, which makes them ideal cool focus points. Soaking your feet in cool water will give you instant relief, especially if your feet swell in hot weather (pregnant women try this!). Take a picnic down to your local fountain, river, or lake and soak those feet.
7. Eat Lite, Eat Salads
Because digesting a large, heavy meal requires more energy and heats up the body (and often your hours when the oven is on) in the process, eating more frequent lite meals like salads, cold sandwiches, cold soups like gazpacho, and nori rolls are all great options for hot days.
Although we’re all about the peaches here in Southern Colorado, a favorite childhood Summer memory for us native New Englanders is heading out into the Summer heat of June to pick our own strawberries. If you have never tasted a fresh strawberry straight from the vine, picked at peak heat, you have missed out on one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Pictured here: The Sage Summer Salad honors that fresh berry-picking feeling with local mixed greens, romaine lettuce, fresh strawberries & blueberries, mandarin oranges, toasted pecans, fresh mint, and dijon poppyseed dressing.
8. Drink UP
Being dehydrated is a quick way to dangerously overheat in the summer. Drinking water is obviously key, but did you know that drinking light fruit based drinks with seasonal fruits like watermelon, cantaloupes, coconuts, cucumbers, and peaches contain loads of water?
If you aren’t making daily stops at your local farm stand to restock on peaches (for us Colorado folks its peak season for Palisade peaches!), then you just aren’t doing Summer right.
Pictured here: At Sage we honor the MVP of Southwest Colorado Summer with this delicious, refreshing non-alcoholic Peach Mint Lemonade. Made fresh and local, of course.