• “Eating ice cream on a hot day can do more harm than good in terms of raising your body temperature.” (Westend61/Getty Images)
It might be time to balance out all of those delicious ice-cream treats in the peak of the summer heat.
By
Yasmin Noone

13 Jan 2020 - 2:19 PM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2020 - 2:45 PM

Summer food memories are partly made of ice cream. From a melting Italian gelato to an icy sorbet, ice creams are a delicious, international go-to treat for young and old alike when the temperature rises and the summer heat burns.

But as tasty as ice cream is, the simple yet iconic dessert is extremely complicated.

According to a paper published in the journal, Appetite in 2013, humans are made to generally dislike cold things being placed anywhere near our skin. Whether it’s summer or winter, when cold stimuli is applied externally, you may feel a, ‘oh wow that water is cold’ reflex and shiver, and experience vasoconstriction as your body defends its current temperature.

“Eating ice cream on a hot day can do more harm than good in terms of raising your body temperature.”

However, there is one bodily exception: your mouth.

“Cold stimuli applied to the mouth are perceived as pleasant because of pleasure associated with satiation of thirst and a refreshing effect,” the study explains. “Cold water is preferred to warm water as a thirst quencher and cold products such as ice cream may also be perceived as pleasant because oral cooling satiates thirst.”

The bad news is that although ice cream will immediately cool you down and generate a refreshing taste sensation of fatty pleasure, eating ice cream may eventually make you feel hotter.

Why you should drink hot tea and eat chillies in summer to cool down
Push that ice-cold drink aside this summer and opt for a hot Moroccan tea, Chinese soup or chilli-filled dish to break into a sweat and really cool your body down.

Anika Rouf, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, says that although ice cream is fine in moderation any time of the year, it’s actually preferable to eat it in winter than summer.

“Ice cream produces an initial cooling effect in the mouth and that's why it tastes refreshing,” Rouf tells SBS. “But that feeling is short-lived.

“Eating ice cream on a hot day can do more harm than good in terms of raising your body temperature.”

Rouf explains that because ice cream usually contains a fair amount of sugar, fat and protein, it is a hard food for the body to digest.

“Humans are warm-blooded and we control our body temperature, regardless of what the environment is like. We also break down the foods we eat so that various nutrients can be transported around the body and absorbed.

“As ice cream is a complex food, the body will need to produce more heat to digest it. This explains why you may need to switch the fan setting from low to high after eating ice cream.”

“The extra heat produced by the body when you consume heavy foods is beneficial when the weather is cold, but in summer you should be aware of the possibility of overheating on a very hot day.”

Rouf adds that it’s not only ice cream that produces this hot summer outcome but all foods and beverages that contain a high amount of fat, protein or carbohydrates.

“The extra heat produced by the body when you consume heavy foods is beneficial when the weather is cold, but in summer you should be aware of the possibility of overheating on a very hot day.”

If you’re really feeling the summer burn and craving a scoop of ice cream, Rouf says it’s okay to have a small amount or to try a low-fat, low-sugar homemade variety, which might be easier to metabolise.

“You can make your own ice blocks or low-calorie sorbet or ice cream. These low-calorie options may produce less heat during the process of digestion. So they will be satisfying but it won't be so hard for your body to digest.”

Swap your ice cream for an icy cool dish with bite
The next time you're after a refreshing dessert, opt for frozen hodgepodges that deliver a world of flavour.

What should we be eating when it’s hot?

Although it may sound torturous to consume hot food and drinks like tea or soup in summer, the fact is that they can help regulate your body temperature and cool you down in summer.

“Hot drinks or soups make your core temperature rise,” she says. “As a result, your body will want to cool down so you’ll end up sweating more and lose heat through your skin.”

“For example, you might see people in India drinking chai tea, people in Vietnam having a hot bowl of pho and people in Mexico eating spicy salsa.”

Rouf says this is why people living in hot climates around the world consume hot drinks and soups on a regular basis. “For example, you might see people in India drinking chai tea, people in Vietnam having a hot bowl of pho and people in Mexico eating spicy salsa.”

But if you can’t handle a hot and spicy meal and infinite sweating during the peak of the summer heat, there are other things you can try to cool down.

“To stay cool in summer, you should consume food and drink with high water content so you feel well hydrated. That includes foods like cucumber, lettuce, zucchini celery, watermelons and strawberries.

“Keep water as your drink of choice. If you find water boring, jazz it up by adding fruits to it like pineapple and berries. Either way, in summer, make hydration your priority as it’s the best way to ensure your body stays cool in the heat.”

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