Summer is here.
We’re sweating buckets, and begging for shade.
When it’s hot, it’s all too easy to grab an ice cream or a cold lemonade for a frozen sugar rush, but are there any health foods that can naturally aid your bodies ability to regulate its temperature?
Homeostasis is the system by which the body maintains a number of checks and balances. Temperature, heart rate, blood glucose and pH to name a few, are all regulated by this system. Your body is in a constant balancing act to maintain homeostasis. When you’re not at your healthiest, it can struggle or become sluggish to environmental pressures, taking much longer to respond, which in turn takes a toll on the body.
Core temperature is sensed by fine nerves in the skin, the great veins and the spinal chord, among other systems. When temperatures drop, sensors alert the hypothalamus and the brain sends signals to initiate vasoconstriction, a process whereby all blood vessels (especially those on the extremities) shrink in diameter. The opposite is true when temperatures increase. Your blood vessels are commanded to relax and open up (advice I could use myself).
The effect of vasoconstriction and vasodilation is one of thermal conservation or loss. Constriction prevents blood flow over the larger extremities where surface area is increased, allowing heat to be lost more rapidly. When dilation occurs, more warm blood is able to get to the most heat wasteful areas of the body to cool down. Think of your body as a very efficient 2 in 1 radiator. You give off heat, or you close the pipes, depending on environmental temperature.
Not all of us are in prime condition when it comes to these processes however. Some of us have compromised homeostatic abilities due to unhealthy lifestyles or chronic conditions. For instance, those who suffer from heart disease may not be able to cool or warm up because the effectiveness of their heart muscle is compromised and arteries may be damaged. In those with Reynaud’s a type of spasmodic vascular response, vasoconstriction may happen even when temperatures are not too cold.
What can we do to support the process of vascular constriction and relaxation? Here are five foods you can incorporate into your diet to help support your bodies ability to react to temperature changes, especially important as it gets warmer!
As a shout back to my post on ‘What Would Jesus Eat?‘, many of the foods that ancient israelites ate supported excellent circulation. I suspect this is due to the climate’s extreme temperature. The bodies ability to dilate the blood vessels effectively seems very importantin these hot conditions. Pomegranates, garlic, onions and wine are all excellent foods to support circulation and vasodilation. Check the post out for more examples!
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leaves are full of nitrates which the body can convert into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which can improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Eat your veggies if you want to stay cool!
Oranges, Lemons and Limes, Oh My!
Ok, well it’s not just oranges and lemons, you’ve also got grapefruits and other citrus fruits too! Citrus fruits are packed with antioxidants which can reduce inflammation in the lining of the arteries. Inflammation causes hardening in the arterial walls which, over time, leads to a poor temperature response. An artery that is less flexible will not respond well to the demands of temperature change. Support your bodies response by eating lots of citrus which will keep your vascular system bouncy and supple!
Cinnamon, Hot But… Not?
Maybe you ought to have your spiced orange wine in the summer rather than at Christmas to incorporate your citrus and your cinnamon! Cinnamon is a great spice that goes with many things and makes them taste even better. It’s implicated in better blood flow and heart performance under stress. For once, we’re barking up the right tree (it’s a pun I’m so sorry).
Berry For Your Thoughts?
Berries are delicious. You can’t NOT like berries, right? Anyway, like citrus, berries are brimming with antioxidants which support the bodies ability to elastically respond to temperature changes in the atmosphere. Berries are usually cheaper in the summer as well, so go mental! Get as many berries as you can, make your face look like a jammy mess. I’ll allow it, just this once.
Walnuts, As Sexy As They Are, Wrinkly…
I absolutely SWEAR by walnuts. These blossoming, nutty brain sculptures are excellent for a whole range of ailments. They will help if you experience chronic skin issues, prostate or bladder problems, diabetes and will even improve heart health. Which is kinda why we’re here. They are packed with beautiful antioxidants that will soothe the lining of your vascular system like a luxurious, sexy oil rub for your insides. They are also filled with prebiotic fibre which supports digestive health. I’m a firm believer that many of our bodies health issues originate in the gut, so these little powerhouses of nutrition should be pouring out of your cupboard. I’m serious. Just put these nuts in your bed, by your computer, in your car. Wherever you are, they is, kapiche?
As you might expect, a lot of these foods are already health foods and something you should try to incorporate in your diet. If you have to choose just one though, try and add walnuts, as I really do think they are an absolutely phenomenal health food which can tackle all of the important issues that anyone with chronic disease or poor circulation may have.
But the good thing about many of these foods is that they are in season during the summer when your body needs that support the most to keep you cool. Berries and citrus fruits can be bought cheaply and you should take advantage of this! I’m a big believer in buying foods which are in season. Nature made them that way!
I hope some of this can give you an insight into how to tackle the summer heat. The vascular system is so complex and fascinating. Learning a bit of science while you eat can’t be bad, right?
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