Indian summers are globally famous for being absolutely dreadful, especially from May. But this year, the heatwaves began early from March itself. Apart from the obvious problems of the higher electricity bills, various skin problems, and running out of water, there is one very much overlooked problem that can potentially lead to a poor quality of life in the long run during summers. Reduced appetite or even appetite loss is a very normal phenomenon in scorching summers as we tend to gravitate towards liquids, especially our favourite chilled drinks, be it fruit juice, soft drinks, or mocktails. Though it is perfectly alright to forego a solid meal in favour of a gratifying, healthy, fruity drink once in a while, it is definitely difficult and unhealthy to reduce food intake or skip whole meals because of loss of appetite.
Loss of Appetite Causes
You may not believe this but researchers have been pondering the loss of appetite causes since way back in the ‘90s and all the evidence till date points to the concept of ‘thermoregulation’ or body heat regulation. The basic science behind decreased appetite is that we eat food to derive energy from it. So, the process of digestion of food releases a lot of energy, naturally. But, this energy is mostly released as heat.
The chemical energy stored in food can be converted to other forms of energy when it gets stored as glycogen and fat in our body. The body uses this energy to sustain by converting the chemical energy to mechanical energy when we use our muscles and also to heat or thermal energy as and when we need to keep ourselves warm. This process is ‘thermogenesis’ and therefore, digestion of food is overall a ‘thermogenic’ or a heat-producing process.
Our appetite, thirst and body temperatures are controlled by a specialised centre in our brain known as hypothalamus. Notably, hypothalamus decides when our body temperature is high enough to be able to sustain itself with a lower food intake, thereby decreasing appetite and increasing thirst as it prioritises body hydration and sweating the heat out instead of eating food to generate more heat.
What to Do Then?
Nothing, apparently! As far as medical opinion is concerned, it is perfectly alright to eat less and drink more fluids in summers. The loss of appetite is simply your body signalling you about what it needs. Come monsoon, you will be back to craving your steaming idlis or chutney-laden samosas.
But then again, there are a few offerings from Mother Nature which are specially designed to generate an overall less amount of body heat and keep us hydrated during summers. These are summer foods, perfect for surviving heatwaves:
Cucumbers and tomatoes are almost completely water. They are rich in antioxidants and fibres and have a low calorie count. So, they do not raise our body temperature post-meal.
- Fresh Juices
Fruits are approximately 50-80% water and are rich in fibres and antioxidants. Also, sugars in fruits are mostly fructose with little glucose. Therefore, post-meal sugar spikes are less likely as fructose is easily broken down in our body, making fruits good for diabetics too.
- Lemon Barley Water
Lemon barley water can be taken (upto two glasses a day) every morning and evening. It helps in controlling our appetite. And, since it is rich in fibres, it also helps prevent constipation. This regulates our appetite and reduces our calorie intake, consequently reducing our core body temperature.
- Rice and Beans
One of the most underrated food items that offers a nice blend of carbohydrates and proteins. Rice and beans are easy to make and can be eaten cold as well. No matter how you choose to eat it, on a hot day, it is a lighter meal.
Appetite loss is a very normal phenomenon in summers and is simply your body’s signal to you and mostly needs little to no intervention as things eventually go back to normal with the inevitable season change. However, in case of persistent low appetite, there is an alternative of summer foods that are not only almost equally tasty as your regular food but also scientifically proven to generate overall less heat in your body.
Summers can be scorching, especially in a tropical country like India. But with a few well-informed and practical diet and lifestyle changes, you will be able to beat the heat easily!