2 JULY, 2013

What to eat during the summer months

The summer months are characterized by high temperatures and increased exposure to sun rays. These conditions create certain needs for the smooth function of our body. Our body’s main thermoregulatory mechanism to deal with high temperatures is sweating. While sweating, our body temperature decreases and reaches normal levels. However, the increased sweating experienced in the summer months has as a result, not only water loss, but also the loss of some necessary elements, mainly potassium, sodium and chlorine. There is evidence that suggests that the loss of body water and electrolytes that is equal to more than 2% of body weight can severely suppress the individual’s performance (physical and mental), because  the thermoregulatory function is not working properly. The body’s temperature increases quickly, drastically increasing the likelihood of cramps, exhaustion and even a heatstroke. Heatstroke has a mortality rate of 80% in the sensitive population groups: elderly and children. Consequently, replenishment of fluids and electrolytes is necessary.

Replenishing fluids and electrolytes


Sodium is the main eletrolyte present in body fluid and plays a pivotal role in regulating the volume and composition of body fluids, neuromuscular activity and the functionality of the heart and other vital organs. It helps maintain body fluid balance and a sodium deficiency could cause serious issues, such as, muscle spasms, nausea, fluid and electrolyte imbalance, which, if not repaired in time, could even lead to a coma. The primary source of sodium is salt, in any form, as well as, salted food. Also, most sports drinks, as well as, juices, are enriched with some form of sodium.


Potassium helps regulate the body’s acid-base balance and also helps regulate blood pressure and normal heart function.  Potassium deficiency can lead to especially serious conditions, such as muscular weakness and paralysis, neural disorder, impaired cardiac function, arrhythmia, coma and even death. During periods when we go through increased fluid loss, such as the summer, it is very important to replenish potassium intake sufficiently. Foods that are rich in potassium are fruits, juices, especially bananas and grapefruits, figs, potatoes, cereal, raw vegetables and nuts.


Chlorine plays a vital role in the regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. It is necessary for the production of the stomach’s gastric acids and the smooth digestion of food, as well as, iron and vitamin B12 absorption. Chlorine deficiency causes serious disruptions to the body’s acid-base balance, metabolic alkalosis, which may even lead to death. The most important source of chlorine is salt, as well as, water, since today, chlorination is a key process for the production of drinking water.

So, one easily understands that during the summer months it is important to replenish the fluids and electrolytes mentioned above (sodium, potassium, chlorine), both through foods that contain them  (salt, fruit, nuts, raw vegetables, potatoes, cereals) and through the consumption of liquids (juice, water, sports drinks). It should be noted that the loss of liquid can be replenished through water, but electrolyte loss cannot be respectively replenished. That is why it is essential to consume fruits and vegetables during the summer season, because they not only contain water, but many essential minerals and trace elements that also must be replenished.

At the same time, exposure to the sun during the summer months increases the need for the natural protection of the skin’s cells. Studies regarding the skin’s health generally focus on ingredients such as vitamins, carotenoids and a specific class of lipids, dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids. These nutrients  appear to have photoprotective action, affecting cutaneous immune responses and act therapeutically in cases of skin disruption.

As far as the photoprotective properties of nutrients, according to recent studies, by fortifying ones diet with antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids, he or she offers protection to the skin against UV radiation. Specifically, vitamin with antioxidant properties (mainly vitamin E and vitamin C) protect the skin from the oxidative changes (damages) caused by ultraviolet radiation. It is necessary for these nutrients to be combined in the appropriate quantities, because they work together and one nutrient assists in the regeneration of another. Carotenoids are effective jammers, which detect oxidants produced and thus play an important protective role. As far as the cutaneous immune response (this can be detected through appropriate skin sensitivity tests), vitamins E, C and beta-carotene, appear to regulate it at the appropriate levels.

The main dietary sources for antioxidants vary by vitamin or mineral. Here is a table with the ideal source by vitamin / mineral:


Vitamin A           Eggs
                             Milk and dairy products
                             Fish oil
Beta-carotene   Fruit, mainly citrus (oranges, tangerines, limes)

Carotenoids   Vegetables, especially yellow and orange (carrots, lemons) and   tomatoes

Vitamin C          Fruit, especially cirtus, blackcurrants and strawberries
                            Green leafy vegetables and cabbage (spinach, broccoli)
Vitamin E           Vegetables oils, especially olive oil
Selenium           Meat, liver, seafood
Flavonoids       Red wine

It should be noted that vitamin A and vitamin E are among the fat-soluble vitamins that in order to be absorbed by the body, require the presence of fat. As a result, the aforementioned dietary sources that are fat-free should be excluded, unless they are being consumed at the same time as fatty foods. Also, it should also be taken into consideration that beta-carotene, carotenoids and vitamin C have high photosensitivity and exposure to light without protection destroys them. For this reason, the necessary measures should be taken in order to protect them, such as not allowing them to sit in the sun for a long time after they have been cleaned or peeled and when able, opt for raw fruits and vegetables, since after they have been cooked, especially in high temperatures, they lose a significant portion of their nutritional value.

Furthermore, an important class of nutrients are polyunsaturated fatty acids, which play an important role in the human body, as they regulate the structure, fluidity, flexibility and functionality of the cell membranes and the biosynthesis of lipids of the stratum corneum of the skin. Of particular importance is the correct ration of intake of polyunsaturated fatty acid subcategories (omega-6 and omega-3), rather than the total amount of intake. Research has proven that this lipid category contributes to the improvement of the status of patients with allergic dermatitis and psoriasis, and regulates the production of mediators associated with the immune function of the body and thus the skin. For example, it is known that the dietary consumption of certain plant nutrients or fish (i.e. salmon,) regulates the balance between lipid inflammatory mediators and is thus useful in the treatment of skin inflammation.

It is also important to note that through ones diet the concentration of nutritional ingredients necessary for the maintenance of the smooth function of all layers of the skin is regulated, in contrast to products used for protection purposes, which act only locally.

Finally, we could say that the summer’s specific environmental conditions require a corresponding nutritional care, with the ultimate goal being the better function and protection of one’s body. Summarizing the above, we could say:

1. For adequate hydration

  • Drink enough water and (fresh) fruit and vegetable juices
  • Several daily fruit
  • Sufficient quantities of vegetables
  • Milk and yogurt (high in water content)

2. For skin protection

  • Several fruits and vegetables and foods containing antioxidants

3. For better digestion

  • Reduce fat in ones diet (especially saturated fat.) Foods containing saturated fat are fried, have butter, full fat dairy, red meat and sausages and full-fat cheese.
  • Meal quantity reduction (servings per meal) while increase of meal frequency.
  • Easily digestible meals should be selected, such as pasta, without the addition of fat, learn meats like chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin, fish, seafood and low-fat cheese.

4. For general good health

  • Maintain a good diet plan
  • Do not eat with large intervals in between
  • Eat a good breakfast
  • Have several small meals during the day
  • Avoid eating late at night
  • Increase your physical activity, for example, swimming, walking

Everything mentioned above will help each individual maintain a proper diet and combine the days during which one rests (vacation) with better health and well-being. Because a proper, healthy diet and increased physical activity are the perfect combination to ensure good health.

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