The next time you grab that scoop and shovel out a bowl of sweet ice cream to cool off on a summer day, how much you consume could make you feel even hotter.
"I wouldn't tell anybody not to have ice cream during the summer. That's just wrong," said Tara Marchello, a registered and licensed dietitian with the University of Kansas Health System. "It's enjoyable. It gives that instant cooling effect in our mouths."
But that's where the digestion starts. And when we eat something with calories, whether ice cream or food in general, it takes some work to burn off the fats, proteins and sugars.
"It’s all about the thermic effect of digestion and absorption," Marchello said. "And when we digest, it creates energy and heat. And therefore, our body temperature can go up."
And while the effect is insignificant – unless you were eating nothing but ice cream – it's not always what we do, but what we're not doing, too, that affects our body temperature.
"Staying hydrated with water as a priority is most beneficial," Marchello said. "Are you drinking enough no sugar added water?"
When deciding on foods to include in your day, you want to include foods with a good water content into your meals and snacks; such as tomato or cucumbers, berries and melon, Marchello adds.
These items have higher water content and keep the body a little more hydrated, which helps that balancing effect.
But it's not the indulgence of ice cream that can make you feel your body burning off the calories; eating heavy or fried foods in the summer, in addition to meats and bread, should be limited.
"If we're doing lots of cakes or treats, those foods are heavier. They just take a little more work," Marchello said. "Even high protein meals can make you feel that way."
These backyard summer picnic favorites go through that same thermic effect of digestion and absorption where the body's temperature is always trying to balance itself out.
"Anything with really any substance of calories, even having like a lemonade on a hot day, it's certainly less caloric, less fat, less protein than ice cream, but ultimately it's sugar. So it's taking some digestive work."
By no means is ice cream a toxin, but the dose can often make anything unhealthy.
Whether it's old-fashioned vanilla, mint chocolate chip or peaches crème, just remember moderation, take your time and savor the moment. Your mind and body will thank you later.
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