“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

When temperatures soar to over 90 degrees and humidity levels are so high that mere mortals begin to melt, conscious cooks crave cooling foods that are highly refreshing.  Bodies and minds overheated by an assault of sultry, steamy days need plenty of relief.

Water is one of the healthiest liquids we can ingest and provides a plethora of health benefits. The human body is made up of over sixty percent water content and requires constant replenishing. Drinking water may help perk you up when soaring temperatures make you sluggish. It’s absolutely vital to replace lost fluids during and after exercising, mowing the lawn, tending to the garden or any strenuous summer activity.

Severe heat can rapidly dehydrate the body, which can lead to a lack of concentration, limited attention span, impaired memory and  diminished motor skills. Drinking a tall glass of water not only helps to internally cool and refresh the body, it also helps break down fats and assists with proper waste elimination. Consuming plenty of water keeps joints lubricated, while protecting the spinal cord and tissues.

Many fruits and vegetables contain considerable amounts of water and can be even more effective at restoring  the body than a glass of water, because they provide amino acids, natural sugars, mineral salts and vitamins lost during exercise or other activities.

Summer fruits such as cantaloupe,  peaches, raspberries, blueberries, apricots and plums, cherries and grapes are excellent water sources, while vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuces, zucchini, radishes, celery, tomatoes, green and red cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, eggplant and peppers also contain significant hydration.

Preparing your own fruit- and vegetable-infused water is a delicious and unique way to entice your family to drink more water. You will avoid the artificial colors and flavors found in many sports drinks and enjoy  a sensational new summer beverage.  Not only will infused waters bring beautiful benefits to the body, but they will be a gorgeous addition to your summer table. Fill a large, clear pitcher about two thirds full with water and add thinly sliced cucumber, rosemary sprigs, and lemon slices for a particularly distinctive drink. Lemon balm, fresh peach slices and raspberries would be stunning, while strawberries, blueberries, and crushed mint would be delectable, as would a combination of cantaloupe chunks, pineapple sage and lime slices. Tomato and basil water is a new way to enjoy a summer classic!

Plan on letting your creation rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to release all the lovely flavors. You could strain out the fruits, vegetables and herbs, but there is such beauty in the presentation, I encourage you to find a way to pour out the mixture with all the contents involved. If you have a pitcher with a straining top, that is a perfect vessel. If you prefer a bit of fizz in your water, top off each serving with a splash of plain sparkling water.

Garnish the glasses with fruits, herbs or edible flowers such as nasturtiums. If there is water left over, strain out the remains before storing in the refrigerator overnight. Save the strained fruit for smoothies for the next morning ... another cool way to savor the best of summer’s bounty!

Remember to enjoy plenty of healthy, hydrating water as you prepare your delicious life this summer.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP,  “The Conscious Cook “, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conduct cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com