You know it's summer when the local grocery store freezer aisle starts looking like a scene out of Night of the Living Dead. As the catatonic crowd drags their feet over to the ice cream and cold beer*, you can dash away from the frozen fare and pick up some simple foods that will really help you beat the heat (and hunger too).

When the air conditioning is off, the dip in the pool has dried away, and you've run out of clothes to take off, perspiration is the body's main defense against the summer sun. When you sweat, your blood vessels dilate and hot blood travels outward, away from your core. In order for your sweat to transform from liquid to vapor, it needs energy in the form of heat. It obtains this heat from your body, thereby cooling you down.  That means you should be eating foods that 1) facilitate blood circulation, 2) encourage sweating, and 3) keep you hydrated so that you can sweat it out all over again.

Watermelon Salad (from junglefrog-cooking)

Watermelon is a perfect way to fend off a hot summer day. Not only will this delicious fruit keep you hydrated, it's also full of lycopene (the pigment that gives it its red coloring) which has properties that facilitate blood circulation. Other fruits to consider this summer are peaches, pumpkins, papayas, pink grapefruit, and tomatoes!

Sweet and Spicy Peach Salsa (from mylifeasamrs)

Dark green, leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli are also good choices to try. These vegetables contain an abundance of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that attacks damaged cells and helps red blood cells carry oxygen more efficiently throughout your body.

Kale, Leek, and Squash Quiche in a Chive Crust(Kale, Leek and Squash Quiche in a Chive Crust) (from bakingbarrister)

Spiced Strawberry Mango Mint Cumin Cooler (from hobbyandmore)

If sweet isn't your thing, then maybe spicy foods are the way to go. Spices such as cayenne pepper and turmeric encourage sweating, which is great for cooling yourself down. Garlic and mint are also excellent ingredients to turn to if you're looking to liven up your summer dining. Garlic has properties that help reduce blood clotting, and mint contains menthol which triggers cold-sensitive receptors in the skin!

Spicy Beef and Black Bean Tacos (from kalynskitchen)

*You should avoid foods like ice cream on hot days.  According to Gerard E. Mullin, the director of gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the cooling you feel from eating cold foods will fade within 15-20 minutes and leave you feeling warmer than you felt initially.

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