Updated: Feb 22
While autumn is in full swing, some might argue that it feels more like winter. It's the time of year when many of us just want to cozy up on the couch, crawl under a blanket and hibernate until spring. (Raising my hand high!)
While staying active can help increase circulation and generate heat, certain foods can also turn up the heat by increasing circulation, body temperature and digestion.
If you want to stay warm this winter, while nourishing your body (goodbye winter colds!), eat the foods below often.
Here are seven ways to stay warm through foods.
The process of breaking down food (metabolizing) when you eat, can increase metabolism and create body heat. It takes energy to absorb nutrients from food, break them down for energy and absorb what's needed. In general, metabolism can increase by about 10 percent when we eat. Here's how metabolism increases when you consider each individual nutrient:
carbohydrate up to10%
Eating foods high in fiber, that take longer to breakdown, may help to keep your body warm and digestion moving. Whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, wheat berries, farro and brown rice are high in fiber and B vitamins, which assist in metabolism. Autumn and winter root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, butternut squash and pumpkin, are also high in fiber, as well as other immune-boosting nutrients (to keep away nasty winter colds!) such as vitamin C and vitamin A.
Spices can create digestive fire! Warming spices that lend to flavorful soups in the winter have compounds called phytochemicals (or phytonutrients) that can turn on the heat and boost metabolism, as well as reduce inflammation, boost the immune system and improve cognition. Add fresh ginger, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon and clove to meals or make hot teas like ginger turmeric or a warming chai spice using cinnamon, ginger and clove spices.
Foods high in Nitrates
This is possibly one of my favorite food groups because it contains two of my favorite foods on the planet —arugula and dark chocolate (not necessarily in that order). Plant-based foods high in nitrates can dilate blood vessels and increasing circulation. When consumed, nitrates convert into a gas called nitrous oxide, which relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels causing them to increase circulation and keep you warm through the increased blood flow. Examples of foods that increase nitrous oxide include dark chocolate, beets, celery, pomegranate and arugula. Pro tip: consume them 30-45 minutes before a workout to potentially increase endurance!
Check out one of my favorite chocolate brands Xocolatl who's fairly traded, organic, simple ingredients and family owned, based in Atlanta!
High Iron Foods
Iron is an important mineral that is vital to the function of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen through the body. Iron deficiency may occur when insufficient dietary iron is consumed (also occurs from excessive blood loss). To get enough iron on a plant-based diet, consume high iron foods such as lentils, soybeans, tempeh, whole grains, nuts and seeds, figs, fortified cereals and dark leafy greens. To maximize iron absorption, combine high iron foods with foods high in vitamin C, which can increase iron absorption five-fold. Foods high in vitamin C include tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, broccoli, citrus and berries.
Naturally, we gravitate to hot soups during the winter for their warming, soothing and comforting effects. There's nothing better than coming inside after a long day out in the cold and rewarding yourself with a warm bowl of soup (with a side of hot cocoa of course). Maximize the warming benefits by using the foods mentioned above—healing spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric and cayenne, grounding grains like farro and quinoa and colorful veggies like kale and butternut squash.
No brainer here—herbal beverages and teas can keep you warm all winter. The additional benefit is that you can sip your way to health throughout the day. Whether you're looking to improve digestion (ginger turmeric or black licorice tea), maximize antioxidant for cardiovascular and brain health (hibiscus blueberry tea) or reduce risk of cancer while increasing metabolism (green tea), you can do it through tea. Consider purchasing an eco-friendly tumbler for tea on-the-go.
Bonus: Stay hydrated! We can be more susceptible to being cold when we are dehydrated. Often times, we don't drink as much water during the colder months because we won't feel as thirsty. It's important to continue to stay hydrated by consuming half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, then you need approximately 75 ounces of water a day, maybe more depending on your activity level. Room temperature is just fine during the colder months! Add lemon or hibiscus tea (or other natural flavorings like cucumber or basil) to make water more enticing during the winter months or drink warm water with lemon.
See the segment on The Weather Channel Below!