The summer’s heat is in full blast. With rising mercury levels, it is important to pay attention to bodies’ fluid needs as well, which is fulfilled by the electrolytes.
Electrolytes are mineral ions that help to regulate our body fluids and contribute to the overall cell health by supporting healthy digestion, muscle and nerve function, blood flow and body temperature fluctuation. The most common electrolytes are sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Profuse sweating can lead to dehydration as we not only lose fluids but also electrolytes in the form of sodium and potassium. If this fluid loss is replaced only with water, it can lead to dilution of body plasma. It is therefore imperative that the lost ions are also replaced through different fluid sources.
It is for this reason that aam panna, nimbu-paani, shikanji, kokum sherbet, bel sherbet, falsa sherbet, chaach, lassi and thandai were a regular feature in our grandparents’ home during summers. They all acted as coolants as well as helped maintain the ions in our body. But now they seem to be fast disappearing from our kitchens. But it is important to bring them back, as they are a perfect way of beating the heat during sizzling summer days.
- One should be careful and avoid artificial sweeteners or anything bottled. These drinks load you up with empty calories, sugar, caffeine, chemicals and preservatives. Focus on stirring up refreshing, healthy but homemade concoctions using local, seasonal ingredients.
- A lot of seasonal summer fruits like watermelon, peaches, wood apple and mulberries etc. act as a food source, besides being a rich source of water as well. These should be consumed in copious quantities not just for the fluids but also for the nutrition they provide our body. They also help maintain healthy sugar levels.
- Tea, coffee or other caffeinated drinks are not good substitutes as caffeine being diuretic in nature further reduces the fluid retention in the body.
- Make your own drinks with a riot of flavours through mixes and fusions. All seasonal summer vegetables are a combination of high water and substrate. Their juices are rich in phytonutrients and give a boost to our energy levels too. One very good option is the bottle gourd juice with cucumber, mint, beetroot and lemon. There could be many more. Go ahead and whip up your favourite, healthy drink.
- Keep in mind that the loss of electrolytes in the body can cause muscle fatigue and cramps, dizziness, nausea and rapid heart rate. While mild dehydration is easy to combat, severe electrolyte disturbances can reduce blood flow to vital organs and requires immediate treatment. This is especially important in children, since they have a higher metabolic rate than most adults and are at a greater risk for electrolyte imbalance.
Remember to stay hydrated, and enjoy the rest of your summer.
(Ruchi Goyal is a Chandigarh based dietician)
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