- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Eat to Beat Winter Chill - How to Stay Warm Using Food Therapy
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It always amazes me to see someone walking outside, in a t-shirt and shorts, on a sixty-degree day and looking perfectly comfortable. Some people just don't get cold easily while some others, like myself, shudder at the very first whiff of winter breeze. There are many possible reasons for cold sensitivity. Usually, it is caused by something very simple, such as unfamiliarity with cold climates or natural tendency to have slightly low body temperature. If your cold sensitivity is very severe, however, it might be a sign of some serious health problems, such as anemia or thyroid disorders. In this case, you really should voice your concern to your doctor.
For us, winter wimps, getting bundled up in several layers of thick clothing and "hibernating" inside a heated room seem to be the most common resolution. But do you know that adding certain foods to your diet and adapting your eating habit can also help you better cope with the tormenting cold weather? What we eat affects many areas of our health, including the body temperature and the ability to stay warm. Based on ancient Chinese tradition and modern nutrition science, the following strategies can keep you warmer throughout the winter.
Eat Foods that Keep You Warm
According to traditional Chinese medicine, food therapy can help us maintain or restore the yin and yang balance in our bodies. Yin foods have a cooling effect and promote relaxation, whereas yang foods heat up and invigorate the body. Keep in mind that these effects don't necessarily have much to do with the actual temperature of the food. For example, spinach soup belongs to the yin group even though it is hot food. True, a bowl of steaming spinach soup can induce a warm sensation in your body while you're eating it, but it doesn't tend to help you stay warm for long like yang foods do. Ideally, every meal should consist of both yin and yang components, yet the proper ratio of the two food groups depends on each individual's condition. People who naturally have high body temperature and tend to sweat profusely even in mild weather will likely need to add more yin to their diet. Those who usually have low energy and suffer from cold sensitivity, on the other hand, would find yang foods to be very healing, especially in the winter.
Yang Food List
beef, eggs, lamb, mutton, pork, poultry, oily fish, salty cheese
Grains, Nuts and Seeds
cornmeal, oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, rice, millet, pumpkin seeds, walnut
clove, coriander, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, turmeric, sea salt, miso, soy sauce
carrot, chilli pepper, winter squash, potato, turnip, radish, mustard greens, basil, shallot, garlic, onion, leek
date, coconut, cherry, mango, durian, longan, blackberry, apricot, black currant
Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption
The popular notion that drinking alcohol can keep out the cold is both true and false. Moderate alcohol consumption slightly increases blood flow to the skin, which accordingly creates the sensation of warmth in the skin's sensory nerves. It may or may not actually raise the body temperature, but at least your skin would feel a little warmer. Yet, excessive alcohol consumption usually yields quite the opposite result. Drinking a lot of alcohol tends to cause the body to produce a considerable amount of sweat. Sweating, as you probably know, is a quick way to lose body heat. That's why after a long night of drinking, most people's body temperature tends to drop below normal. So to stay warm this winter, limit your alcohol consumption to only one or two drinks a day, or better yet, none at all.
Drink Heat-Inducing Beverages
Drinking hot beverages in the winter is very comforting, but to really heat up the body and keep it warm, you will need to choose the right drinks. Ginger and ginseng tea are among the best heat-inducing beverages. Ginger tea has a sweet aroma and a mildly spicy taste. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve blood circulation, relieve headache as well as prevent chills and fever. Similarly, ginseng has strong yang properties, and has also been scientifically proven to improve memory and strengthen the immune system. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste, and its earthy aroma is quite strong. Not all types of ginseng are heat inducing, though. Unlike Korean and Chinese ginseng, American ginseng is categorized as a yin herb, which cools down the body rather than warming it up.
***Ginseng could hinder the effects of some medications. If you are currently on medications, such as blood thinners, calcium chanel blockers or antidepressants, you should consult your doctor whether it is all right for you to drink ginseng tea.***
Don't Skip A Meal
Believe it or not, eating three meals a day can keep you a little warmer! Your body temperature can increase by up to 2° F once the digestive process takes place in your stomach. That doesn't mean you should eat as much as you can during each meal, though. If you overeat and make your digestive system overwork, your body would feel sluggish rather than invigorated. All your meals should be well balanced and have appropriate portion sizes. Having small amounts of healthy snacks once or twice a day is also recommended. As long as you can keep your digestive system going without overwhelming it, it's all good. See, staying warm in the winter is not that hard!