Get cool: Five foods that will help you cool down
Need to cool down? We asked a Chinese herbalist how to eat and drink the heat away. Here are five foods to help you get cool.
Mon Aug 13 2012
Photograph: Mike Skigen
It’s blazing outside and you need to cool down, but you can’t spend the entire day in an air-conditioned chamber. To help you get cool, we consulted Soho Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist Mia Hatgis (acumamamia.com). Drawing on ten years of experience in the field, Hatgis explains that according to traditional Chinese medicine, foods can be characterized as heating, cooling or neutral. “When we make these classifications, it’s not about their actual temperature,” she says. “Some foods induce the natural cooling mechanisms of the body.” With that in mind, we compiled this list of what foods to eat to find relief from the heat—and where you can try them.
For common summer ailments such as thirst, low energy, headaches and dizziness, Hatgis recommends a backyard-barbecue classic: watermelon. Dripping with juice, it increases the amount of fluid in the body so effectively that Chinese herbalists recommend using it to prevent or recover from heatstroke. “Composed of 93 to 96 percent water, watermelon allows the body to generate fluids, maintains electrolyte balance and induces urination, which is a very efficient way of clearing heat from the body,” says Hatgis. Sip a freshly pressed watermelon juice ($7) at Caribbean hot spot Miss Lily’s Variety, a hybrid juice bar, bakery, record store and radio station. 132 W Houston St at Sullivan St (646-588-5375, misslilysnyc.com)
The fever- and thirst-reducing properties of this tiny legume are so widely accepted in China that they are blended into everything from noodles and rice to cakes and other desserts. Discover these magic beans stateside in the spicy mung-bean Jell-O salad ($5.95) at Upper East Side Szechuan restaurant Wa Jeal. “Mung beans clear heat by helping the body get rid of toxins and reducing inflammation,” says Hatgis. They’re particularly good after a night of summer revelry, as they help cleanse your system of alcohol, nicotine and other drugs. 1588 Second Ave at 82nd St (212-396-3339, wajealrestaurant.com)
“Contrary to what we might expect,” says Hatgis, “frozen or refrigerated foods and beverages tend to weaken digestion, and lead to that sluggish feeling associated with summer days.” Better to feast on hot foods with cooling benefits. Bitter melons, also known as bitter gourds or balsam pears, are prized in Asia for their ability to reset the balance of hot and cold in the body. Try the intensely bitter fruit stir-fried with beef ($11.95) at Chinatown favorite Hop Kee. 21 Mott St between Bayard and Worth Sts (212-964-8365, hopkeenyc.com)
For those who find cold foods challenging to digest, Hatgis recommends this thermally neutral fruit: “Papaya prevents the lethargy and loss of appetite associated with hot summer temperatures. It’s full of digestive enzymes that clear inflammation in the body, and it helps drain toxins and generate fluids.” A cuisine staple in steamy climates around the world, papaya is most potent when eaten raw. Give this hardworking fruit a try at Rouge et Blanc, where uncooked green papayas come julienned with fried whole prawns, sweet tofu and a curry vinaigrette ($13). 48 MacDougal St between W Houston and Prince Sts (212-260-5757, rougeetblancnyc.com)
“Cucumbers are more than 90 percent water,” says Hatgis. “They are also rich in vitamins, alkaloids and chlorophyll, and effectively replenish electrolytes.” That means you can enjoy North End Grill’s Kachumber Kooler cocktail ($13) and cure your hangover all in the same swig. In this drink, gin (a classic garden-party refresher) is combined with cucumber, cilantro, green chilies and lime, and served over ice for a boosted chill factor. 104 North End Ave at Murray St (646-747-1600, northendgrillnyc.com)