Let the Dog Days of Summer Begin

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: June 25, 2010

Summer officially begins at the solstice on June 21st/22nd but for most Americans, Memorial Day weekend was the start of the summer. It’s that time of year when barbeques work overtime, sun hats come out for the first time of the year and shorts expose the pale whiteness of legs that haven’t seen the sun all winter. Gardens are ready to sprout their seeds. I’ve planted mine firmly in the ground and hope they flourish before they need to brace for the intense heat that summer may bring.

For many, summer arrived early this year bringing the warmer than usual temperatures with it. According to meteorologists, you should brace yourself for a hot one. This summer is expected to be hotter and dryer than normal across a large part of the nation. I can’t help to think every year, “I should move north”.

But don’t let the heat beat you this year! You can’t hide in your air conditioned chamber for three months. Start your summer right. Try to stay sunny throughout the sizzling dog days you may encounter. While the outside temperature soars, here are some tips to help you keep your internal thermostat down.

Save Your Skin From the Sun

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. The sun is its worst enemy. Exposure to ultraviolet light, UVA or UVB from sunlight accounts for 90% of the symptoms of premature skin aging. Ultraviolet radiation can cause skin damage including wrinkles, lowered immunity against infection, aging skin disorders and cancer. But you can enjoy summer without sacrificing your skin!

Okay, we all need a little Vitamin D from sun exposure. Ten minutes of sun exposure and/or an adequate intake of dairy products or fortified foods will do the trick. The key to protecting your skin during the summer is taking cover and slathering on the sunscreen.

Merely covering up with a white t-shirt will not suffice. A white t-shirt will only give you a SPF (sun protection factor) 4. That is not enough! Certain clothing is available that incorporates UV protection into the actual material. Also, there are products available that you can use in the washing machine that can add UV protection to your clothes. But what about using just plain old sunscreen?

Okay, okay. I know, I know. Shopping for the right sunscreen at your local grocery store can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. There are so many choices and many of them are a complete waste of money. Current Food and Drug Administration standards for SFP only refer to the ultra-violet B (UVB) protection. Unfortunately, you need to worry about both UVA and UVB protection.

UVA can cause major skin damage. It is more intense and penetrates deeper into the skin. When choosing your sunscreen, make sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. We recommend SPF 15 and higher. You need a full ounce to cover your body (think of a shot glass). If you don’t smear enough of an SPF 30 on, it can act like an SPF 15 or SPF 10.

Stay Healthy, Eat Right

Choosing the right foods, staying hydrated and getting the right nutrients can make summer living a breeze. Summer can take a toll on your body! Skin and hair can become dry and damaged from the sun, chlorine and saltwater we may expose them to.

For parched skin, eat plenty of foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. You can help out your dry or damaged skin by eating foods like raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. Proteins like lean meats, beans, nuts and seeds will also help.

Hair consists of keratin (protein fibers). Cook up a protein-rich meal on the grill to replenish your locks. Foods rich in B-vitamins, folic acid, calcium and zinc can improve dry, dull hair. These nutrients can also help maintain healthy skin. Foods like yogurt, fortified cereals, beans, milk, yogurt, meat and fish can make dull and lifeless locks shiny and healthy again.

One of the keys to remaining healthy in the summer is staying hydrated. Women often forget to drink lots of water in the summer but do you know how much water you actually need daily? In the hot, summer months, women should drink 92 ounces (8 to 10 cups) of water to prevent dehydration. Keep a water bottle at hand and start drinking before you feel thirsty. Thirst is not a reliable measure of hydration. If you exercise, drink about two cups of water two hours prior to your workout. Then, drink an additional ½- ¾ cups for every 15 minutes of activity.

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake during the summer. Most Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables (the average American gets a total of three servings per day). The latest dietary guidelines call for five to thirteen servings a day. Eating your fruits and vegetables can help ward off heart disease, stroke, control blood pressure, cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer and guard against cataracts and macular degeneration. Fruits and vegetables tend to have high water content. Upping your intake in the summer is a great idea that will help you meet your hydration needs.

Here is one of my favorite, simple (it’s really easy), summer recipes for the grill that has proved to be a big hit at family barbeques:

California Springtime Jumbo Asparagus Salad

  • 1 bunch of jumbo asparagus
  • 1 head of green leaf lettuce, washed/chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ lb. cooked medium sized shrimp
  • 1 thiny sliced lemon

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 8 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon minced parsley
  1. Mix Vinaigrette ingredients and keep in a cool place.
  2. Steam asparagus to appropriate doneness and cool; place leaf lettuce on plates and add six slices of tomatoes to each plate, placing cooked asparagus between them.
  3. Place 5-6 shrimp around asparagus and garnish with lemon slices. When ready to serve, dribble Vinaigrette over the salad. Enjoy!

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted from: California Asparagus Commission