In the colder months, our bodies don’t necessarily crave or need light fares like strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, and other hydrating, cooling foods. When the temperature falls the body’s metabolism slows down in order to conserve energy and keep you warm. This is one of the reasons why we end up feeling sleepy and lethargic during the colder months.
When the temperature starts to drop, it’s time for warming foods that can boost our internal temperature by heating and invigorating the body. There’s more to it than whipping up a bowl of hot soup or drinking a mug of hot chocolate and sitting by the fire. Cooked foods and meals warm more successfully than raw foods, which are naturally cooling, but there are also foods that heat by pushing blood and energy to the surface of the body during the digestion process.
Foods to warm you up
I recently went into more detail on this subject in my recent segment with NewsTalk 1010, if you missed it have a listen here. Spicy foods are the most obvious. When we eat a hot pepper, our face might even flush; that’s why we call them “hot.” Adding a hot pepper to a dish, or eat a more spicy salsa with your eggs, which are also a warming food, can help.
Many people believe a hot toddy is a means to a warm body. Yes and no. Alcohol can increase blood flow to the skin, which induces warmth, but it can later cause the body to sweat, which will ultimately cool you right down. I know, not what you wanted to hear.
Ginger has thermogenic properties that can keep you warm. It also aids in boosting metabolism and promoting blood flow. Ginger tea is a more effective warming drink than a hot toddy. Ginger can be added to soups and smoothies made with warm milk or water.
A big bowl of steaming oatmeal topped with walnuts and blackberries (call that a triple warmer), not only is a fiber-rich dish, but contains powerful starch called beta-glucan, which is effective at helping to reduce cholesterol.
Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, shallots, garlic, onions, and leeks are all seasonal winter warming foods that can make a variety of soups or roasted side dishes. They keep the body warm as their digestion is slower which generates more heat.
Here’s a soup recipe from my book Sprout Right Family Food that ticks a bunch of warming food boxes. Add as much ginger as you like!
Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup
Makes about 6 cups (1.5 L)
This appetizing soup, bursting with flavour and vitamin C, makes a lovely accompaniment to the Bean and Veggie Kamut Quesadillas or the Chicken Souvlaki. It can be served as a main meal with whole-grain bread or by adding in cooked brown rice or quinoa.
4 cups (1 L) Meat Broth (page 129 or Vegetable Broth (page130)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup (125 mL) red lentils, rinsed well
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 kale leaf, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cumin
1½ teaspoons (7 mL) ground coriander
1½ teaspoons (7 mL) chopped fresh ginger
1 can (14 ounces/398 mL) canned coconut milk
1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
- Add the broth, sweet potato, lentils, onion, kale, garlic, cumin, coriander, and ginger to a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered until the sweet potato is fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk and cilantro and purée until smooth.
- Store the soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
This soup is a good source of beta carotene, fibre, potassium, manganese, and vitamins C and E.