Food That Makes You Cooler, or Hotter

Patient Expert
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Recently, I went to dinner with some friends on a very hot, humid day. We were sitting outside on the enclosed (and air-conditioned) patio but I could still almost see the heat waves coming off the pavement outside the patio’s windows. So when the waitress came to get our orders, the only thing I craved was a big salad (as opposed to my friends, who ordered burgers and fettucine Alfredo).

I’ve noticed that when it comes to meal time this summer, my body wants more light and fresh vegetables, like a salad, and fresh fruits. My body isn’t interested in heavy meals. That prompted me to wonder – is there a reason for this desire? Are my cravings based on psychological factors because we have a wonderful bounty of produce at the farmer’s market and grocery stores? Or could there be another reason behind this urge to eat produce?

Digestion and body temperature

It turns out that the process of eating causes your body temperature to increase as you digest food. Researchers have found that your body’s temperature may increase by up to two degrees Fahrenheit due to the chemical reactions that are part of digestion. Thus, I’d suggest that my cravings for easily digestible foods are my body’s way to avoid extra heat. And who wouldn’t want to do that in temperatures that, with the heat index, are reaching 109 degrees Fahrenheit?

Type of foods also make a difference

Some research backs up that your cravings may vary by season. One study reported by NPR in 2011 determined that the average participant consumed about 200 more calories per day in the fall, as well as the highest total amount of fat and saturated fat. However, researchers question whether this change in eating patterns is due to biology, opportunity (due to holiday spreads), or earlier good memories linked to food.

With that said, consuming certain foods definitely can make you hotter or colder, according to a 2013 Time article. The foods that can make you feel hotter include, ironically, ice cream (due to the fat content which takes more energy to digest), brown rice, whole grains, cereal products, beer and other types of alcohol. The story also highlights foods that make you cooler. While watermelon (which has a high level of water content) isn’t a surprise, leafy greens actually fall into this category (thus explaining my desire for salads). Livestrong.com also reports that root vegetables require more energy from the body to digest than vegetables that are grown above ground. Warm foods such as soup can help increase the body’s temperature for a short period of time.

However, Time.com and Livestrong.com disagree on hot peppers. Time reports that spicy foods make you sweat, which helps cool your skin off. However, Livestrong notes that peppers within the capsicum family actually raise internal body temperatures.  I’ll leave that one to readers to determine if they feel hotter or cooler when eating a jalapeno or habanero this summer!

So, looking to cool down - have a salad. Looking to warm up - have some ice cream? Sounds like a win-win to me!

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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Fitday.com. (ND). How Is Body Temperature Affected by Eating?

Aubrey, A. (2011). Winter Munchies: Do We Eat More in Colder Months? NPR.org.

Hauser, A. (2012). Why Do We Eat More in Winter? EverydayHealth.com.

McLelland, J. (2014). Can Certain Foods Increase Body Temperature? Livestrong.com.

Taselaar, A. & Sifferlin, A. (2013). Surprising Foods That Toy With Body Temperature. Time.com.