Winter is cold. And expensive… new wooly socks, thermals and winter boots can all add up. But nothing will break the bank more than a $600 electricity bill from synthetic heating. Seriously, that’s just shy of 3/4 of a months rent. And rather than giving my hard earned pennies to giant energy companies, I’d rather spend them on plane tickets and organic food. We’ve gotta eat, so we might as well eat foods that can keep us warm too, no? Think of the holidays you can buy with all the money you’ll save on your heating bill. You can thank me later.
- Ginger – literally warming you from the inside out, ginger is a circulatory stimulant meaning it promotes the flow of blood and nutrients around the body. It’s also a great digestive if you’re prone to bloating, and as an anti-emetic can settle an upset tummy during times of nausea. Grate it into a cup of hot water with fresh lemon or add to pumpkin soup towards the end of cooking.
- Garlic – possessing strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity, garlic should be on high rotation in everybody’s diet this winter. It’s a great natural antibiotic for the respiratory tract but also improves blood flow around the body. For those who find garlic a little tricky to digest, try garlic infused oil instead. The fructans (a type of FODMAP) found in garlic are water-soluble and therefore do not leach into fats or oils, so garlic oil is usually tolerated well.
- Cinnamon – another circulatory stimulant, cinnamon is great for promoting blood flow to our extremities to keep our hands and feet warm over the cooler months. Cinnamon also helps to regulate blood glucose levels, helping to combat afternoon sugar cravings and regulate hormones and weight. As well as freshly ground in chai, one of my favourite ways to consume cinnamon is on roast pumpkin – try it!
- Cayenne pepper – perhaps the most heating of all spices, cayenne pepper is well known for its heat due to its naturally occurring levels of the active constituent capsaicin. Capsaicin also induces thermogenesis and increases your metabolism, which is appropriate during winter when our movement and energy expenditure tends to slow down.
- Turmeric – hugely popular for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is highly regarded in Ayurvedic medicine for its ability to warm the body. This is partly due to the tannin content which has an astringent action within the body and can increase body temperature.
- Black pepper – not only does pepper warm you up but it’s also great for the digestive system and aids in the absorption of curcumin – one of the main constituents in turmeric. Add a pinch of black pepper whenever you use turmeric (as well as a small amount of good quality fat such as olive oil, ghee or milk/mylk) to enhance the absorption of turmeric.
As well as incorporating warming herbs and spices into your diet, eating more cooked foods and less raw foods is another great way to keep warm this winter. Aside from foods which are physically cold (e.g. food and drinks straight out of the fridge or freezer), energetically cold foods such as raw tropical fruits, raw salads, fruit juices and dairy (with the exception of yoghurt) should should be replaced with foods which are warming (herbs and spices, cooked vegetables, stewed fruits, cooked whole-grains such as oats, brown rice and quinoa). Our digestive system naturally slows down during winter, and cooked foods* are easier to digest – this is particularly emphasised in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Our digestive system is also where much of our immune system resides – which is pretty busy fighting off bacteria and viruses all winter – it shouldn’t have to cook our food for us too.
*Steaming, stir-frying, slow cooking and roasting are the healthiest ways to cook foods. Avoid microwaving and deep frying (although, I’ll admit I am guilty of using a microwave on the occasion to warm up my soup when I’m working and don’t have access to a stove – just do your best!).
Warming spiced mylk recipe:
- 1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 cup of coco quench or alternative milk of choice
- 1/2 tsp honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup (optional)
Method: heat all ingredients on stove and drink from your favourite mug, whilst browsing the internet for Airbnb’s in faraway exotic locations. The spices will warm you up from the inside out, and any afternoon sugar cravings will be taken care of thanks to the natural sweetness and blood sugar stabilising properties of cinnamon. It’s also full of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, which have a plethora of health benefits.
For more immune boosting tips and tricks, click here.