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6 surprising, scientifically-backed ways to cool down quickly during a heat wave

Some of this advice may seem counterintuitive, but it may help you beat the heat.

man sweating and drinking a sports drink

Heat waves are hitting across the globe, and getting worse every year.

Phoenix is known for its scorching hot summers, with temperatures sitting at or above 100 degrees for much of the season. But even those seasoned by the Sonoran sun are struggling with nearly three weeks straight of high temps over 110 degrees, with overnight lows not dipping below 90 degrees for days on end.

(Having lived in the Valley of the Sun myself, I can attest that, yes, there is a significant difference between 100 and 110 degrees. At 100, you can still legitimately pull the "But it's a dry heat!" card. Over 110 is just miserable, not to mention dangerous.)

The Southwest isn't the only place experiencing record heat. The Lower Mississippi Valley and Florida are feeling it, and globally we're seeing parts of Europe and Asia breaking their own heat records as well.

With the globe predictably heating up due to climate change, there doesn't appear to be much end in sight for extra-oppressive heat waves. So aside from taking the necessary steps to curb climate change, we have to focus on how to cool ourselves down. There's a lot of conflicting advice out there, but here are some scientifically-backed ways to cool your body down quickly, especially if you don't have air conditioning or access to a pool or lake or river nearby.


1. Focus on cooling your hands and feet.

Everyone seems to have a different body part to focus on first for the quickest cool-down—your face, your neck, your wrists, etc.—but according to Professor Mike Tipton from the Extreme Environments Laboratory at the University of Portsmouth, the hands are where it's at.

"Your hands have a high surface area to mass area—they have lots of blood flowing in them when you’re hot. If your core temperature is hot, your body will send blood to the extremities in order to lose heat,” Tipton told Science Focus.

“Immersing your hands in cold water won’t feel as nice, but it’ll cool you much faster than even an ice bath! It’s so important to make a distinction between things that make you feel cooler and things that actually make you cooler.”

Cooling your feet works for the same reasons. We have lots of blood flow to our feet, so immersing them in cool water (not ice water, as that causes the blood vessels to constrict and reduce blood flow) can help cool you down quickly.

2. Try drinking hot liquids.

Yes, drinking cold drinks feels amazing when you're hot, but some experts say hot drinks can actually do more to help your body's natural cooling system work more efficiently. Ollie Jay, a researcher at the University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics, explains why.

“What we found is that when you ingest a hot drink, you actually have a disproportionate increase in the amount that you sweat,” Jay told The Smithsonian. “Yes, the hot drink is hotter than your body temperature, so you are adding heat to the body, but the amount that you increase your sweating by—if that can all evaporate—more than compensates for the added heat to the body from the fluid.”

The one caveat is that the increased sweat has to have someplace to evaporate, so take humidity levels into consideration.

“On a very hot and humid day, if you’re wearing a lot of clothing, or if you’re having so much sweat that it starts to drip on the ground and doesn’t evaporate from the skin’s surface, then drinking a hot drink is a bad thing,” Jay added. “The hot drink still does add a little heat to the body, so if the sweat’s not going to assist in evaporation, go for a cold drink.”

3. Try some spicy foods, too.

Have you ever noticed that tropical places often have the spiciest foods? There are several theories for why that is, but one of them may be that spicy foods can actually help you stay cool.

Similarly to drinking hot beverages, eating spicy food makes you sweat, and sweat is the body's main cooling system. (Again, though, the effectiveness of this approach depends on your sweat being able to evaporate, so you may not benefit from your mouth burning if you're in a very hot and humid climate.)

4. Ditch the fan if it's extremely hot AND extremely dry or humid.

Fans can provide a nice breeze to help you cool down, but many public health agencies have recommended against using fans above 95 degrees F (35 degrees C).

However, Ollie Jay and 12 colleagues published a study in 2021 that found humidity levels make a difference in whether fans are actually effective for cooling in extremely high temperatures. Essentially, if temps are extreme and conditions are very dry or very humid, fans can make things worse. But as Science Alert points out, those conditions are not the norm in most places. When humidity is moderate, the temperature at which fans are effective can be higher than 95 degrees.

"[T]here are many locations on Earth where fan use could be safely recommended as an alternative to air conditioning all of the time despite air temperature exceeding the currently recommended threshold of 35 °C," the authors wrote.

(However, it is important to note that fans increase the risk of dehydration, so always make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids. And for older adults, fan use is not as effective as it is for younger people and can actually result in raising their body temperatures. So it's important that elderly folks and their caregivers follow heat guidance specifically for older adults.)

5. Just say no to the cold beer—or any alcoholic or caffeinated beverage

Cracking open a cold one may sound incredibly refreshing when you're sweltering, but alcohol and heat actually make poor bedfellows. That's because alcohol actually dehydrates you. Same goes for caffeine. And the fact that they are liquids is especially deceptive because they give you a false sense of hydration.

“If you’re drinking a lot of beer or alcoholic seltzer, it can feel like you’re taking in a lot of liquid and staying hydrated,” registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, tells the Cleveland Clinic. “But the alcohol offsets that because of the dehydrating factor.”

(If you're interested in the biological reason for alcohol being dehydrating, it reduces the release of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone (ADH) that works with your kidneys to keep your body fluids balanced. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means it increases the fluid being pulled out of your body as urine.

Hydration is key to making it through a heat wave, so drink aplenty, but make it water. (And start hydrating early in the day. Keeping water near you at all times and continually drinking throughout the day will go a long way toward preventing heat illness.)

6. Try dabbing on some peppermint oil

I know, I know. Essential oils are quack cures and whatnot. But in this case, even though it doesn't drop your core temperature, there really is a scientific basis for topical peppermint oil making you temporarily feel cooler.

Menthol, the primary ingredient in peppermint oil, has been shown to induce a cooling sensation. If you've ever sucked on a menthol cough drop, you know the feeling. Peppermint oil creates a similar sensation on the skin, which can provide some psychological relief from the heat, even if it's not actually reducing your body temperature.

In one study, a menthol gel was found to have a longer cooling effect than either ice or a placebo gel on healthy males. But anecdotally, a few dabs of peppermint oil on my wrists, neck and inside my elbows provides some instant cooling relief on very hot days. When it's brutally hot outside, any bit of relief helps.

There are plenty more tips for beating the heat, from wearing light-colored clothing to avoiding strenuous activity, but the big takeaway from this list is helping our body's built-in cooling system work as well as it possibly can during extreme heat.

For more information about the dangers of heat waves and how to prevent heat illness, check out the American Red Cross extreme heat safety tips here.

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10 anti-holiday recipes that prove the season can be tasty and healthy

Balance out heavy holiday eating with some lighter—but still delicious—fare.

Albertson's

Lighten your calorie load with some delicious, nutritious food between big holiday meals.

True

The holiday season has arrived with its cozy vibe, joyous celebrations and inevitable indulgences. From Thanksgiving feasts to Christmas cookie exchanges to Aunt Eva’s irresistible jelly donuts—not to mention leftover Halloween candy still lingering—fall and winter can feel like a non-stop gorge fest.

Total resistance is fairly futile—let’s be real—so it’s helpful to arm yourself with ways to mitigate the effects of eating-all-the-things around the holidays. Serving smaller amounts of rich, celebratory foods and focusing on slowly savoring the taste is one way. Another is to counteract those holiday calorie-bomb meals with some lighter fare in between.

Contrary to popular belief, eating “light” doesn’t have to be tasteless, boring or unsatisfying. And contrary to common practice, meals don’t have to fill an entire plate—especially when we’re trying to balance out heavy holiday eating.

It is possible to enjoy the bounties of the season while maintaining a healthy balance. Whether you prefer to eat low-carb or plant-based or gluten-free or everything under the sun, we’ve got you covered with these 10 easy, low-calorie meals from across the dietary spectrum.

Each of these recipes has less than 600 calories (most a lot less) per serving and can be made in less than 30 minutes. And Albertsons has made it easy to find O Organics® ingredients you can put right in your shopping cart to make prepping these meals even simpler.

Enjoy!

eggs and green veggies in a skillet, plate of baconNot quite green eggs and ham, but closeAlbertsons

Breakfast Skillet of Greens, Eggs & Ham

273 calories | 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (5 oz) pkg baby spinach

2 eggs

1 clove garlic

4 slices prosciutto

1/2 medium yellow onion

1 medium zucchini squash

1/8 cup butter, unsalted

1 pinch crushed red pepper

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bow of cauliflower ham saladGet your cauliflower power on.Albertsons

Creamy Cauliflower Salad with Ham, Celery & Dill

345 calories | 20 minutes

1/2 medium head cauliflower

1 stick celery

1/4 small bunch fresh dill

8 oz. ham steak, boneless

1/2 shallot

1/4 tspblack pepper

1/4 tsp curry powder

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp garlic powder

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/8 tsp paprika

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

tofu on skewers on a plate with coleslawPlant-based food fan? This combo looks yums. Albertsons

Grilled Chili Tofu Skewers with Ranch Cabbage, Apple & Cucumber Slaw

568 calories | 20 minutes

1 avocado

1/2 English cucumber

1 (12 oz.) package extra firm tofu

1 Granny Smith apple

3 Tbsp (45 ml) Ranch dressing

1/2 (14 oz bag) shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix)

2 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

frittata in a cast iron skilletSometimes you just gotta frittata.Albertsons

Bell Pepper, Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata with Parmesan

513 calories | 25 minutes

6 eggs

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

2 oz Parmesan cheese

1 red bell pepper

1/2 medium red onion

8 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with slices of grilled chicken and a caprese saladCaprese, if you please.Albertsons

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Classic Caprese Salad

509 calories | 25 minutes

3/4 lb chicken breasts, boneless skinless

1/2 small pkg fresh basil

1/2 (8 oz pkg) fresh mozzarella cheese

1 clove garlic

3 tomatoes

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 3/4 pinches black pepper

1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

four stuffed mushrooms on a plateThese mushrooms look positively poppable.Albertsons

Warm Goat Cheese, Parmesan & Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms

187 calories | 35 minutes

1/2 lb cremini mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1 1/4 pinches crushed red pepper

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with open English muffin with goat cheese and sliced baby tomatoes on topMove over, avocado toast. English muffin pizzas have arrived.Albertsons

English Muffin Pizzas with Basil Pesto, Goat Cheese & Tomatoes

327 calories | 10 minutes

3 Tbsp (45 ml) basil pesto

2 English muffins

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/2 pint grape tomatoes

3/4 pinch black pepper

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

pita pocket on a plate filled with veggies, meat and cheeseThis pita pocket packs a colorful punch.Albertsons

Warm Pita Pocket with Turkey, Cheddar, Roasted Red Peppers & Parsley

313 calories | 20 minutes

1/4 (8 oz) block cheddar cheese

1/2 bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

4 oz oven roasted turkey breast, sliced

1/2 (12 oz) jar roasted red bell peppers

1 whole grain pita

3/4 pinch black pepper

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp mayonnaise

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with toast smeared with avocado and topped with prosciuttoDid we say, "Move over, avocado toast?" What we meant was "Throw some prosciutto on it!" Albertsons

Avocado Toast with Crispy Prosciutto

283 calories | 10 minutes

1 avocado

2 slices prosciutto

2 slices whole grain bread

1 5/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp onion powder

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bowl of chili with cheese and green onions on topVegetarian chili with a fall twistAlbertsons

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili with Cheddar

444 calories | 30 minutes

2 (15 oz can) black beans

1/2 (8 oz ) block cheddar cheese

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

2 green bell peppers

1 small bunch green onions (scallions)

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin purée

1 medium yellow onion

1/2 tsp black pepper

5 7/8 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp cumin, ground

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

For more delicious and nutritious recipes, visit albertsons.com/recipes.

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