Summer is the time to be wary of dehydration. During this season, we constantly have to figure out healthy ways to keep us hydrated sufficiently. After agreeing on water as the number one pick to beat the heat, let us move on to take a peek at some foods that are excellent summer thirst quenchers.
- Tender Coconut Water: This is the ideal summer drink. The mildly sweet water tastes heavenly and is loaded with minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, sulphur and chloride. It is celebrated as a natural isotonic beverage. The coconut meat also known as coconut jelly comes as an additional treat. The satisfaction derived while drinking directly from the shell and its rustic appeal are totally missing in the canned equivalents.
- Palm Fruit: The fruit of the Palmyra tree, called as “Nungu” in Tamil or as Ice-apple in English, is encased in a shell. There are about 3-4 fruits in a shell. A thin creamy brown membrane covers the jelly-like translucent fruit. The skin is peeled to savour the fruit. The peeled skin is used to treat heat boils and skin rashes. Each fruit contains 1-2 spoonful of fluid in it. The fruit is rich in glucose, B-vitamins, calcium and phosphorus. It is a delicacy that wets our parched throats and raises our spirits on a hot summer day. The fruits are also sprinkled with powdered jaggery and a pinch of cardamom, refrigerated and served as a cool dessert later. But it is always best to consume them in the natural form.
- Neera: This is the translucent sap tapped from the cut flowers of palmyra trees, usually before dawn. The sap is known as “Padhaneer” in Tamil. It is stored in earthen pots smeared with limestone to prevent fermentation. It is generally sold early in the morning by hawkers who carry pots of this wonderful sap on their heads and nowadays is also available in sachets in Khadhi Bhavans. Neera is an energetic and nutritious drink rich in sucrose, ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid, riboflavin, iron, calcium and phosphorus. If the sap is allowed to ferment, it becomes the alcoholic drink, Toddy, which is NOT a thirst quencher.
- Butter Milk: A plain mix of yoghurt diluted with cool water and a pinch of salt tastes like ambrosia when the mercury soars up. It can be spiced up into masala buttermilk with a tempering of asafoetida, finely cut green chilies and ginger. The calcium and protein it offers are health boosters.
- Lime Juice: The golden rule is to go for a juice, when the fruit is not palatable enough as it is. A zingy lemonade prepared from the juice of lime, sugar, extract of a few mint leaves crushed between fingers in water, a pinch of salt and pepper (Yes, pepper!!!) is an incomparably rejuvenating drink. Like all citrus fruits, lime is rich in vitamin-C. A pinch of salt and pepper always enhance the taste of sweets. Even the popular Vahrehvah Chef, Sanjay Thumma, adds pepper as a secret ingredient in sweet pongal.
- Barley Water: The water in which pearl barley has been boiled can be used as a base to prepare fruit juices. Lemon barley, in which lemon zest flavours barley water, is a perfect coolant. Check “The Forgotten Drink”, for the recipe and the benefits it bestows upon us.
- Nanaari Sherbet: The roots of Nannari or Sarasaparilla herb taste astringent and have a pleasant fragrance. Cleaned roots are sometimes dropped into pots of water to flavour it. What is more of a hit is the sherbet, prepared by mixing Nannari syrup with cold water and a dash of lime juice. The roots believed to be effective in cooling body heat, make a restorative cordial. It is also custom to top the sherbet (for that matter, any summer drink) with sabja or basil seeds (seen clearly in the slideshow pic), which is another coolant. The bottled concentrate is available only in select supermarkets. The roots can, however, be purchased from herb stores. For a quick DIY syrup and sherbet guide, refer Home Cook’s Recipes.
- Cucumber: The cuke can be had fresh or by smearing a tad of salt (and chilly powder) on the pulp. Delicious raitha can be prepared by mixing skin-peeled cucumber gratings with yoghurt, salt and a seasoning of mustard seeds, blackgram dhal, asafoetida and green chilly. Varieties that do not exude much water while grated are more suitable for the raitha. Even otherwise the water exuded can be mixed with lime juice, salt and had as a flavourful drink. Cuke not only benefits us with its high water content (about 96% 0f it is water), but also with its high stores of vitamin-C, vitamin-K and folate. The skin provides dietary fiber, vitamin-A, potassium, magnesium and silica. Silica maintains the health of connective tissues like muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilages, bones and nails. The potassium – magnesium – fiber trio help in lowering blood pressure.
- Musk melon: Melons come in a variety of sizes, shapes, with or without ridges, with a smooth or netted exterior. The type common in India is Ambrosia melon (Kirni Pazham in Tamil). The soft pulp of the melon scooped out and relished with little sugar sprinkled on it is delectable. And of course, all melons are popular candidates for juice and milk shake. Cantaloupe is a type of Musk melon. The pulp of Cantaloupe (Mulam Pazham in Tamil) is a bit harder than Ambrosia melon. It is used in salads or sliced and consumed just like musk melon. But its relatively sweeter taste and sugar syrupy fragrance make it more suitable for sherbets. The road-side sherbet stalls engaged in bustling business speak of what a rage it is with people. These melons contain about 95% water. Owing to their high β-carotene and vitamin-A content, they are good for vision. Consumption of these melons reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Their richness in vitamin-C, gift us with younger and smoother skin. They also contain good amounts of B-vitamins, vitamin-K, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber.
- Water Melon: The list would not be complete without mention of this bulky melon. This fruit, a harbinger of summer is a hot favourite to cool down during the sultry heat. It is endowed with about 92-96% water and hence its name. It is an excellent source of vitamin – C, aminoacid citrulline, β-carotene and lycopene. The latter is anti-carcinogenic. The melon also has good amounts of vitamins B1 and B6, magnesium and potassium. The B-vitamins facilitate carbohydrate metabolism in the body; magnesium-potassium combo is anti-hypertensive. It is refreshing when consumed as cut slices, incorporated with other fruits as salad and as juice. But, apply the golden rule wherever possible. Avoid juices for they deprive us of fiber, if filtered and they come with extra sugar.
Reach out for these foods and stay cool the healthy way, this summer. Remember to drink about 3 litres of water a day.
- Close-up of Palm Fruits via dudaonline.com
- Neera via yapakyakap.blogspot.com
- Nannari Sherbet via sixthseal.com