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Cooling food ideas for those scorchers

Don’t let the hot weather automatically drive you outside to the even hotter braai. How about trying some cooling cuisine instead of food and drinks that make you even hotter.

Residents of countries with hot climates don’t head outside to eat a heavy meal in severe heat; they eat little meals with cooling and refreshing ingredients, more often. We should be seeking out the shade and eating foods that keep us cool.

Eating large meals sends blood to the stomach to help aid the digestion process. But in hot weather, it is better to have blood close to the surface of the skin to aid cooling through the evaporation of perspiration. This is achieved by eating cooling foods.

Some cooling foods we should be eating:


This ingredient is a near-constant when thinking about refreshing dishes; the water content helps to hydrate, and, when it’s straight from the fridge, to keep the temperature down.

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Cool melon quenches even the most intense thirst and the fruit is abundant throughout the summer months. Melons have a high water content which helps to keep you hydrated in the hot weather.

A simple salad of ice-cold watermelon with feta and olive oil is delicious and refreshing. Add fresh mint or basil for more flavour.
A simple salad of ice-cold watermelon with feta and olive oil is delicious and refreshing. Add fresh mint or basil for more flavour.


We should also prepare dishes with chilli, as in spite of them being fiery on the tongue, they actually cool us down by enhancing circulation and causing us to perspire.

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If light meals, cooling ingredients and ingredients that warm us up yet chill us out aren’t enough, then the last resort for refreshment is surely a cold drink. See the Salted Lemonade recipe below.

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Leafy greens

Dark leafy greens are composed of 80 – 95 per cent water, which makes them very easy to digest. They go through the digestive system quickly, giving a cooling sensation in the body.

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Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries are all very alkaline, yin fruits. They generate a cold energy in the body, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

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It might seem obvious, but water really is your best friend when the temperature rises, so do make sure to drink lots of it to make up for fluids lost through extra perspiration.

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Some recipe ideas:

Thai-style watermelon and cucumber salad

Could a light salad involving watermelon, cucumber, fresh herbs and chilli be the ultimate cooling dish? Served cold but with a definite kick, this Thai-style dish is certainly more appropriate for temperatures hovering around the 40s than pap and wors. (Serves 4)

1 tsp Sriracha chilli sauce

4 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp granulated golden sugar

Juice of 1 lime

750g watermelon, cut into 3cm cubes

200g cucumber, peeled and cut into pound-coin-thick crescents

1 birdseye chilli, finely sliced

10g fresh mint, rolled and chopped

10g fresh basil, torn

25g toasted and roughly chopped salted peanuts

Ensure your ingredients are fridge-cold before preparing the salad. Mix the chilli sauce, fish sauce, ginger, sugar and lime juice in the base of a large mixing bowl. Add the watermelon, cucumber and chilli. Toss gently but well to ensure the fruit and vegetables are well coated. Let this sit in the fridge for a few minutes. Add three-quarters of the herbs and peanuts. Mix well and serve immediately, with the remaining herbs and nuts scattered over the top. Serve with salmon.


Salted Lemonade

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1 litre water

2 lemons, juiced

2 tsp granulated sugar

½ tsp Himalayan rock salt

2 stems fresh mint

1 lime, cut into wedges

Stir the first four ingredients until the sugar and salt has dissolved. Taste for acidity – add more sugar if necessary. Add the fresh mint and chill. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Sumac, yoghurt and mint dip

150g Greek yoghurt

30g extra virgin olive oil

½ a lemon, juiced

Small bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped

½ clove garlic, crushed

Sea salt and pepper, to season

1 tsp sumac

Mix all the ingredients except the sumac. Just before serving, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with sumac. Serve with stuffed vine leaves (dolmades).


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