Do you tend to get a raw nose and cold hands at this time of year? Thermogenic foods, or those that have warming properties, may be just what you need to switch your internal thermostat to a higher setting. All the clothing layers in the world won’t warm your chilly bones, but here are 10 healthy winter warming foods to defrost you from the inside out.
Yes, bananas. The world’s easiest snack. This fruit is rich in B vitamins and magnesium, which helps the thyroid and adrenal glands regulate the body’s temperature. One large banana serves up about ten percent of the day’s magnesium and a healthy dose of B vitamins. So not to sound cliché, but you really should go bananas for bananas this winter!
Ginger gets its spicy flavour and thermogenic quality from its combination of gingerol and shogaol. Many swear by it for relief from headaches and digestive troubles, but the root is also great for warming the body up. For extra warmth, try a cup of ginger tea or add it to meat dishes, soups or smoothies.
3. Coconut Oil
A few tablespoons of coconut oil a day may be just what you need to thaw out. This oil contains ‘healthy’ saturated fats which are broken down by the body and converted into energy, rather than just being stored in fat cells. This kicks up your core temperature. It’s also great for moisturising dry skin, making it a winter essential.
4. Green Tea
Thanks to its docile levels of caffeine, a steamy mug of green tea will pick you up as it warms you up. Along with the antioxidant flavonoids called catechins, it’s the caffeine that also gives it thermogenic properties. Try recipes that feature green tea in the ingredients.
Despite popular belief, spicy foods won’t help keep you warm. Since they make you sweat, they actually cool you down, which isn’t exactly what you want in this weather. Cumin, on the other hand, generates less intense heat that warms you up without causing you to break into a sweat. It does this by temporarily increasing your metabolic rate, which is great for weight loss as well. Sprinkle some onto salads or onto a roast for great flavour.
High in vitamin B3, peanuts are considered a warming food due to their ability to increase blood circulation and speed up sluggish metabolisms. Peanuts have a “healthy” fat content and are high in plant-based protein, both of which make it a tasty and toasty (and yummy) superfood.
7. Brown rice
This healthy complex carbohydrate takes longer for your body to digest, compared to simple carbs like white bread and pasta. Brown rice and other whole grains such as quinoa and buckwheat are slowly metabolised, making the body generate heat for longer periods. They’re a smart choice for chasing away the chills.
8. Ice water
It may seem counter-intuitive, but as you sip the icy liquid, your body races to warm it up to your normal temperature. Beyond keeping you well hydrated, drinking ice water may also help you to burn more calories and aid your system in clearing out toxins.
Aside from the health benefits of Vitamins A, B and C, beetroot is packed with nitrate that is converted into nitric oxide during digestion. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, which means it increases blood flow that works to warm you up all over.
Root vegetables require more energy to digest than their aboveground counterparts. As the body works to break down these food items, energy is created, which through the process of thermogenesis, increases body temperature. A serving of carrot cake with warm tea, or even the healthier carrot soup may just be what you need for the cold evenings.
Words: Wambui Muriithi Illustration: Nzilani Simu