MHLbannersmallFighting back against the summertime blahs

When you think of summer nutrition most people have visions of fresh fruit and vegetables, firing up the grill and a lot of backyard or vacation cookouts. And those are good visions to have. We eat the foods of summer because so many of them are local and in season and for the simple but enjoyable reason that they taste wonderful.

But sometimes, the hot sun and longer daylight, the increased number of insects, and the heat and humidity can damage our bodies and the way we want to look. When that happens, consider these foods as a natural – and delicious – way to fight back against the following conditions:

Sun Damaged Hair

shrimp & avocado saladAs if the hot sun beating down on you wasn't enough, summer also brings considerably more time in salt water and chlorinated pools, all of which can turn normally soft and manageable hair into something resembling straw. When it comes to foods that help, consider these: since hair is made up of protein fibers called keratin you might want to enjoy some lean grilled meats, a three-bean salad, shrimp or other protein-rich foods. Vitamins like B-5 and B-8 (you can find the first in yogurt and avocados and the second in eggs) can help make your hair shinier as does calcium and zinc, which can also be found in those grilled meats and seafood.

Dry and Damaged Skin

fruitThe same circumstances that dry out your hair also do a number on your skin. Coincidentally, the same nutrients help, too. You can also counteract some of the damage caused by the sun, sweating more, bug bites and general weathering with foods high in antioxidants and vitamin C like raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, all of which are in abundance during the summer months. What your skin will thank you most for, however, is simply loading up on the water. Maintaining proper hydration during the summer (and all year round) is your best weapon against dry skin.

Leg Cramps

bananasMany people exert themselves more in the summer and many people may not get quite enough liquid to counteract the heat and the additional sweating. The result can be tired and sore muscles (some pre- and post-activity stretching can help a lot in that case) but also some actual cramping, particularly in the legs and feet. What you need in that case is a quick and healthy way to get your mineral salts (electrolytes) back in balance. Sports drinks can help, but plenty of water is key, along with foods rich in potassium like bananas, spinach, apricots, mangoes, tomato products (sauces are higher in potassium than raw tomatoes) and iceberg lettuce.

Cold Sores

greensDespite the name, cold sores can be triggered by the additional exposure to sunshine we get in the summer. If you never get cold sores, or only rarely, you probably won't have a problem, but if you are prone to them, here's something to think about: since research shows a relationship between B-complex vitamin deficiencies and cold sores, foods high in those B vitamins include dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and breads, milk products (for riboflavin), poultry and seafood.

Having access to fresh and delicious food during the summer months is a benefit of living in eastern Virginia. Taking advantage of that food to help you look and feel better during the summer months is a bonus.