Strategies for Healthy Summer Living

by Marcel Hernandez, ND

Growing up in the Northeast gave me a visceral connection with the yearly cycle of the seasons.

The heavy-duty winters, and the delightful summers brought their special joys and challenges.

Summer on the East Coast meant muggy heat waves, punctuated by wonderfully refreshing trips to the beach.

Suntans were in vogue (sunscreen was unheard-of!), and tanning oils accelerated the process. Sunburns were way too common.

Cherries, watermelons, berries, peaches, nectarines, apricots – summer brought many of nature’s yummy delights to our table.

In my youthful East Coast years we gave little thought to adapting our lifestyle to the rhythm of the seasons, aside from changing our wardrobe.

But my interest in health and healing led me to recognize the wisdom of adapting my life to the seasonal cycle.

To celebrate summer, let me share some of the healthy habits I’ve adopted for beating the heat, staying healthy, and feeling great.

Healthier Grilling. Instead of the same old “heavy” meats, consider broadening your palette to include fish and chicken. It’s known that barbequed meats pose dangers from grilling-activated carcinogens. But cooking veggies and lighter meats over a low fire will help moderate the risks. See, for example, this rich list of suggestions, produced by a simple Google search for “healthy grilling.”

summer-jumpKeep Hydrated – But Be Careful. Studies show that when the body is even slightly dehydrated, strength and endurance can drop by 40 percent.

The ideal is to sip small amounts from a non-plastic water bottle throughout the day. Electrolyte-rich coconut water is a readily available option.

If you’re thirsty, it means you may already be dehydrated. At the same time, be aware that guzzling water in excess of the body’s actual requirements is very dangerous. See the book Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports, by world-renowned exercise physiologist Timothy M. Noakes, M.D.

Dr. Noakes wrote his book because of his alarming experiences with athletes who either died or found themselves in very serious trouble after following the soft-drink industry’s widely peddled recommendations for fluid intake in excess of what’s needed.

The Dangers of Alcohol in Hot Weather. Alcohol causes the body to perspire and urinate more freely, adding to the risk of dehydration, especially in hot weather. Drinking alcohol-containing liquids won’t adequately replenish your body’s water stores. So it’s important to moderate your alcohol intake when it’s hot, and be sure to get enough fluids, especially when you’re outdoors.

To Avoid Cataracts and Wrinkles – Protect Your Eyes! In hot, sunny weather, you can protect your eyes by simply wearing ultraviolet-blocking polarized sunglasses. Sunglasses also help prevent cataracts, as well as the formation of wrinkles around the eyes.

Summer-Scrumptious Eating. Summertime brings a bountiful harvest of wonderful produce to market. Summer is the perfect season to emphasize these lighter, healthier foods.

In winter, we naturally crave starchy foods for fuel. Summer is a wonderful time to set the baguettes aside and dream up delicious salads and smoothies.

  • A blend of berries and sweet fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth and help keep you slim. You’ll feel fine saving the sugary desserts and bagels for special occasions.
  • Light, nourishing high-protein foods make a lovely addition to the delicious fruits and vegetables of the season. Make a bowl of chopped fruit (try frozen pineapple with chopped bananas and oranges), and add nuts, seeds, yogurt, kefir, or cottage cheese. For a sweet topping, mix coconut milk with a little vanilla or cinnamon, and sweeten with stevia.
  • Or make a delicious salad with sprouted beans or soy products. Fish and poultry also make mouthwatering additions to salads and cooked veggie dishes.

Summer is Prime Time to Exercise. A brisk walk of 20-30 minutes in the cool summer morning or evening will help keep the spare tire off your midsection. You’ll feel better and enjoy your meals more.

watermelon-846357_960_720Scheduling Our Summer Days. Summer is the ideal time for an “early to bed, early to rise” routine. Here in northern California, the summer sun rises at 5:45 a.m. and the sky is still light at 8:45 p.m.. The traditional Indian healing science of Ayurveda tells us that if you fall sleep before 10 p.m., you’ll wake up in the early a.m. feeling better rested than if you’d stayed up late. And you’ll have the long daylight hours to enjoy the beach, the mountains, or to work in the garden.

Your days will flow more smoothly if you take time for quiet meditation in the early morning. A little inspirational reading before bedtime will set you up for happy dreams, and you’re likely to wake up feeling uplifted and inspired.

Get Your Hands Dirty. Summer is, of course, the perfect season for planting a small garden or flower box. If you’re really limited for space, consider planting a few flower pots, indoors or out.

Putting our hands in the soil is grounding and mentally healing. And the satisfactions of a freshly picked ripe tomato defy description.

Marcel Hernandez, ND, of Pacific Naturopathic in Mountain View, California
Marcel Hernandez, ND

Summer Is for Vacations – Duh! Summer vacations aren’t just for decompressing from the daily grind. Vacations have multiple, very real health benefits. They can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate, while reducing stress hormones such as cortisol.

What could be more healing to the spirit than spending summer time with family, kids, and friends in the outdoors? Turn off the smartphone, and take a sabbatical from TV – that great brain waster.

Stay Healthy Under the Sun. Protect yourself from overexposure to sunlight with a wide-brim hat and sun-blocking clothing, and use natural sunscreens that are free of harmful chemicals.

Finally, breathe deeply, express your gratitude for this most beautiful season, and let your inner light shine!

For more on Dr. Marcel’s work click HERE.