Will an ice cream or slushy cool you down this summer?
If your household is anything like mine, summertime hot weather can lead to constant conversations with your kids about when they can have an ice-cream/ice-block, what type of ice cream/block can they have and are they are allowed to have a slushy from the 7-Eleven this year?
I was pleased to read an article on “The Conversation” a couple of weeks ago titled “Health Check: do ice creams and cold drinks cool us down?”. Although there was some lively comments at the end of the article about the validity of the argument that was made – I will be using it as evidence to support my rebuttals against my kids lobbying for cold things.
I realise my argument may not hold much weight with them and that most kids (& adults) are not going to stop reaching for something cold on a hot day. But we can make healthier choices than fat & sugar laden ice-cream and chemical laden soft drink slushy's. For healthier versions of these cold delights you might be interested to read my article titled "How to make an ice-block and slushy the quickest, healthiest way!"
How it all works – why ice-creams and slushy's don’t cool us down
“While it may seem logical that introducing something cold, like ice cream, into the stomach should help reduce our temperature, its initial cooling effect is rapidly replaced by heat generated by digestive processes needed to break down the nutrients in the food or drink, e.g. ice cream. Digesting calorie-rich food leads to an increase in body temperature.”
So ice cream is not the best option for cooling down, but what about cold beverages like a slushy?
“A small amount of liquid loses its cooling effect quickly as it gets warmed up by the surrounding organs. Large amounts of cold liquids cause blood flow to slow, making heat transport less effective…. beverages with a high caloric content, e.g. soft drinks (slushy's), have a similar effect as ice cream and kick start our metabolism shortly after ingestion.”
But I feel cooler…what’s going on?
“The cooling effects of cold liquids are more likely explained by their rehydration effects. If heat does build up, the body will attempt to lose excess heat by transporting it away from the vital organs to the skin surface where it is transferred directly to our environment.”
Rehydration is key, for cooling down in summer
Sweating is the most effective way our bodies lose heat. Sweating occurs when an increase in core body temperature is detected by the brain, which responds by stimulating the sweat glands distributed all over the body to produce sweat.
Sweat on the skin surface evaporates, causing the skin to cool down. Blood that’s flowing close to the surface of the skin gets cooled in the process and helps reduce core temperature.
Although counter intuitive, warm beverages might be a good way to keep you cool.
So what are the chances of getting your kids to have a hot herbal tea instead of an ice-cream? I think I have just heard you drop from your chair to roll around laughing. Ok, so it’s probably unrealistic to think that science and logic will take over their desire to ask you for the aforementioned, but what about you?
I have started to reach for a herbal tea instead of something cold when I’m feeling overheated, as I now understand that a hot drink will cause the receptors in my mouth and throat to trigger a sweat response, allowing my body to cool down.
Active ingredients in spicy foods have the same effect also; they too trigger a sweat response that allows the body to cool down. That’s why these types of foods are popular in warm climates.
So while cold treats can be satisfying and certainly feel refreshing, a better way of cooling down is to keep rehydrated, reach for a hot herbal tea and eat a curry!