Cold Foods vs. Spicy Foods: Which Make You Feel Cooler?

Every summer, it seems obvious: when feeling hot, you crave a cool-down, and the best way to cool down is to consume cold foods and drinks. Given our own food truck work, the staff of Jerry’s Kitchen, which caters for Doylestown, King of Prussia, and other Philadelphia areas, is extremely familiar with this sensation.


Except that our instincts are mostly wrong. While I long thought my elderly relatives who drank hot tea in the summer were crazy, it turns out they were pretty savvy about body temperature.

Here’s a related question: Do you wonder why peoples in the hottest locations on earth tend to eat spicy foods? Just think of Central and South America, India, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. Their inhabitants tend to consume food cooked with hot peppers and hot spices which cause you to sweat. Is it just because hot pepper and hot spices are readily available in those countries?

Perhaps. But the truth is that sweat actually helps your body cool down better than consuming cold substances. While you may crave a tall iced drink or ice cream (who doesn’t crave ice cream?), their impact on your body is short-lived. In fact, you will likely arrive at a hotter and stickier condition because as your internal temperature rapidly cools, your body will compensate by raising its temperature.

Consuming spicy substances will take your body in a longer-lasting cooling direction. As they raise your internal temperature, you will start sweating. Once that moisture has evaporated, you will feel cooler.

What foods make you feel warmer or cooler? Here is a short list.

Ice Cream: Warmer. Why? The fat content makes your body warmer, because foods with fat (or protein or carbohydrates) can heat up the body while digesting. While the initial cold will provide a sense of cool, your body will soon warm up from the energy generated for digestion.

Watermelon: Cooler. Why? Higher water content in food helps keep body temperature down by assisting with digestion and requiring less energy.

Beer: Warmer. Why? The dehydration factor in alcohol causes the body to flush, due to skin heating up from widening of blood vessels. This effect may be most pronounced on your face, so you may feel especially warm when drinking beer or other alcohol. The more you consume, the stronger the effect.

Vegetables and Fruits: Since most raw vegetables and fruits are at least 80 percent water, they will move through the digestive process quickly, also providing a cooling sensation.

If consuming hot foods on hot days does not sound satisfying or enjoyable, fruits and vegetables may be your best alternative for a sustained body cool down.

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