Stay cool in the heat

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What we eat and how it's cooked can affect how hot we feel when the outside temperature soars. The food to avoid on sweltering days includes hot spices and red meat.

Surprisingly, coconut extract is also a no-no. And frying or otherwise cooking food in oil should be shunned in favor of steaming or boiling it.

Green vegetables and fresh fruit are the ideal food for hot weather. They supply vitamins, minerals and fiber, and contain antioxidants to help the body cope with external heat. Because of this, an adult should average at least 200g of fruit and 300g of green vegetables a day.

The best fruits are those that are slightly sweet and full of water, such as pineapple, pomelo, orange, mandarin, cassaba melon and dragon fruit. Lotus seeds and roots are helpful too as they ease nerve stimulation.

Eating plenty of beans is another way to cool down. Beans such as mung beans, black beans, red beans contain vitamins B and E as well as plenty of fiber to clear the digestive system.

The body needs water in copious quantities in hot weather as it loses so much through perspiration. Herbalist Dinh Cong Bay, general secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine Association, warns against drinking too little water or eating too much salty, sweet, energy-rich or spicy food when the mercury rises.

For hundreds of years, people have been making refreshing and nourishing drinks from all sorts of herbs and fruits to cool and fortify the body and keep heat-related illnesses at bay. Here are some suggestions.

- Winter melon & watermelon: Peel and slice 500g of winter melon. Cook it to make mush or squeeze it for the juice. Add 500g of peeled, deseeded and blended watermelon to make a daily beverage. As an alternative, peel 500g of water melon and keep its flesh but not the seeds, chop it finely, and boil in one liter of water for drinking thrice daily. As a rule, eating waky pumpkin frequently is good for treating arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and edema from nephritis.

- Bitter melon: Gut a fresh bitter melon, throw the seeds away, cut it into small pieces and sprinkle on 60g of rock sugar. Mix them together, let stand for two hours, then squeeze out the juice and drink it. More than refreshing, this beverage helps detoxify the body and prevent sunstroke.

- Cucumber & honey: Slice two cucumbers, cover with enough water, and slowly bring to a boil. Spoon the hot liquid into a glass and add 100g of honey to quench a thirst and reduce fever in children. This juice also acts as a diuretic.

- Mung beans & lotus leaves: Wash 60g of mung beans, 30g fresh lotus leaves, and boil in two liters of water until the beans are soft. Filter the liquid, let it cool, and drink it instead of tea to cool, calm and detoxify the body.

- Corn silk, sugarcane & carrot: Wash 100g of corn silk and some pineapple leaves, peel and pulp four 10cm dwarf sugarcane sticks, and peel and cut two carrots into small pieces. Boil in two liters of water, simmer for an hour, then add a little rock sugar. Drink the broth to cool the liver and the body. It is also a diuretic.

- Tomato & watermelon: Peel, deseed and slice 30g of tomato and 30g of watermelon. Blend with a little water. Stir in some sugar, and drink.

- Kudzu & kumquat: Mix 20g of kudzu starch (bá»™t sn dây) and 100ml of water in a bowl. Wash, halve and deseed two kumquats, put them in the bowl, add 20g of sugar, and stir again. Slice a third kumquat, put the pieces and all the liquid in a glass, and decorate with a fourth kumquat. Kudzu starch thickens easily if left to stand, so keep stirring the drink until it is finished. This beverage cools and detoxifies the body, and lowers blood pressure.

- Celery & tomato: Wash two tomatoes and two celery sticks and soak them in salty water for 10 minutes. Slice and blend together with 20g of sugar and some water. This nourishing drink stimulates the nerves and helps stabilize blood pressure in the elderly, who are prone to hypertension when the weather is hot.

- Green tea & lemon: Soak a lemon in warm water for 10 minutes, cut it into two and slice one thin piece. Squeeze the lemon and discard the seeds. Wash 250g of green tea leaves and soak them in salty water for five minutes. Drain the leaves, roll them roughly and put them in a saucepan. Pour 200ml boiled water, let stand for 30 minutes, strain the tea into another pot and let it cool. Add four spoons of sugar and the lemon juice and mix by shaking gently. Do not stir.

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