All over the world climatic conditions play an important role in our lives. Due to climate change, we are facing the biggest health threats.
A climatic condition that affects our health due to extreme changes in weather and temperatures. The sudden rise in temperature during summer can cause air pollution, asthma, heat stroke, and cardiac arrest.
Severe weather changes such as floods, heavy rainfall, and heavy snowfall can cause physical injuries and mental health impacts on individuals. All these affect water, air and food quality. Water quality impact (purity level) leads to Cholera, Typhoid etc.
Malnutrition can also occur due to improper food availability and we should consider age, economic resources, and location to identify the people who are at risk. Mostly climatic conditions affect developing countries and the middle class and economically low people.
In this blog, I will explain how can food habits affect a person’s health during climatic conditions and nutrition requirements for a particular season.
Summer or Winter – Weather-related conditions and food habits which affect health
The high temperature can lead to various health problems. The scorching heat and dry hot winds are at an all-time high, necessitating dietary modifications to survive the high temperatures.
Excessive exposure to high temperature or heat can cause:
- heat exhaustion
- muscle cramps
- deterioration of pre-existing illnesses, like heart and lung conditions
- Increased mortality rate.
Staying healthy in the summer is a top priority for every individual. Even healthy individuals might suffer from heat-related health difficulties, hence food and drinks are essential in helping you get through the heat wave.
Extreme climate and temperature changes are likely to have a more significant effect on certain groups of people mostly kids, old age & people with chronic health conditions. People who live in urban areas, where high heat levels cause severe damage.
An increase in extreme weather conditions causes serious health risks. Hot, dry conditions can cause a decrease in water supply, quality and a lack of food.
The following factors have an adverse effect on people’s health:
- Increased risk of infections
- Respiratory problems from smoke exposure
The lowest temperature can lead to various health problems. Colds, coughs, flu, and other ailments are more common during the winter. It is also a time when some people are more prone to depression or sleeping problems. It is known as Seasonal Affecting Disorders (SAD)
A diet deficient in nutrients can exacerbate or contribute to the above issues. Sugary foods and fatty foods can make you gain weight. High-salt foods can cause water retention and swelling, making you feel exhausted.
During heavy winter it may be challenging to stay healthy as it will be difficult to procure vegetables, fruits and other food items.
Sudden accidents tend to happen during winter which can include being stuck in heavy snow, injuries caused by ice and other damages can affect health and mental being.
Nutrition needs According to climate conditions
Nutrition in summer
Excessive heat during the summer months has been linked to irritability, a lack of attention, physical tiredness, and sleep issues. During the hot summer months, infants, the elderly, and persons with chronic health conditions are the most vulnerable.
During Summer eating healthy is very important as dehydration, dyspepsia, food poisoning, and electrolyte imbalance are all very common in the summer. Always choose fresh foods especially water-rich vegetables and fruits, easy to digest and stay hydrated. Seasonal fruits and vegetables contain significant amounts of water and nutrients, which prevents you from dehydration, and heatstroke also helps to maintain electrolyte balance in your body.
You can consume small frequent meals rather than large portions and water in-between to stay hydrated
Food to eat in summer
- Curd and buttermilk are probiotics (good bacteria) that help your digestive system to function.
- Amla (gooseberry) – This fruit is high in vitamin C and fibre.
- Sweet corn is high in vitamins A, B, and E, fibre, and minerals.
- Tender coconut water- This is a perfect energy drink that helps to replenish the body with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, calcium, potassium, and magnesium lost due to dehydration.
- Seasonal fruits are abundant in vitamins, minerals, and fibre during the summer season (eg Mango, Watermelon etc.). The availability of seasonal fruits can vary depending on your location.
- Lemonade also known as Nimbu Paani, is a popular summer drink that is high in vitamin C and helps to refresh your body.
- Sprouts are rich in protein, easy to digest, and contain a lot of water and nutrients.
Foods to avoid during summer
- Hot and spicy, tandoori foods contain a lot of oil and spices, and they might irritate your stomach.
- Fried food, junk food, and street food slow down digestion and have a bad influence on your health.
- Non-vegetarian foods that generate excessive body heat should be avoided. Meat should be cleaned properly before cooking as it may have many microorganisms present in it which can cause harmful effects in humans. Refrigerate the leftovers immediately.
- Ice cream and cold drinks are body-warming food items rather than providing comfort from the heat, make your stomach feel hotter a few minutes after ingestion.
- Caffeine present in both tea and coffee, dehydrates the body and causes body temperature to rise. It may also disrupt your sleep if consumed in excess.
- Check your food labels and temperatures when purchasing sauces and store-bought products.
- Excess sugary drinks dehydrate our bodies and affect the kidneys.
Nutrition in winter
Fruits, veggies, and nuts are good winter food items to eat. All of these items will keep you satiated for a longer period. They are also low in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, all of which are important for those planning to lose weight.
Avocados are a rich source of healthy fats with a wide range of nutrients. It is a winter food as it contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, Folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorus.
It also contains vitamins E and K, which assist the body in producing energy during winter. It is also abundant in fibre, which might help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite.
Food to eat during winter
- Root vegetables, which are high in beta-carotene, or turnips, which are high in vitamins C and A, are good choices.
- Vitamin D-rich diets—some foods have low levels of vitamin D, which leads to anxiety and sadness. It aids in the psychological issues.
- Oatmeal – By adding warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg without adding calories, fat, sugar, or salt. They have nutrients that are important during the winter. It is also high in zinc (essential for immunological function) and soluble fibre (helps in dysbiosis of the gut which has direct benefits on heart health).
- Thick soup with a lot of vegetables, legumes, egg or chicken is the perfect winter dish because protein and fibre both suppress appetite by slowing digestion and managing blood sugars, which can assist with hunger control and mood-boosting. To keep your body warm, add extra spices like ginger and garlic.
- Opt for lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, vegetables, and pulses during winter as they are good sources of protein as well as fibre.
Foods to avoid during winter
Fried foods and high-fat, high-sugar snacks should be avoided. Meat is high in salt and should be avoided at this time of winter. If you are not allergic to seafood then fishes, crabs, and squid, are a good choice.
As we discussed above, in many aspects climate change poses a serious threat to human health. Natural calamities and extreme weather events can result in injuries, mental health difficulties, increased infection risks, and even death. Widespread damage can also have a long-term impact on one’s health and well-being. Pollution, pollutants, and allergens in the environment can all contribute to a rise in respiratory and other health problems. People in less economically developed areas, as well as children and older persons, are most vulnerable to health risks related to climate change. To help limit these effects and health hazards, during climate change people must follow a nutritious diet to overcome health issues and maintain their bodies to be healthy.
Senior Clinical Dietitian, Simplyweight