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Eat to Beat Winter Chill - How to Stay Warm Using Food Therapy

Updated on October 26, 2015

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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
Animal Products
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!


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  • moonlake profile image

    moonlake 5 years ago from America

    Eating sounds good to me. I should have ate lots today it never got above 12 here. So cold. Enjoyed your hub.

  • ktrapp profile image

    Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

    Very interesting. Balance seems to be the key for so many things, but I never would have guessed eating the right foods to keep you warm.

  • profile image

    jenubouka 5 years ago

    Food therapy, now that sounds incredible to learn more about. I am a huge wimp when it comes to cold weather, and never had thought of eating to maintaining proper body balance.

    I wonder if there is a subconscious message our body sends us to eat more during the winter, thus the popular weight gain in cold weather.

    Love it, thanks!

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    I've got low blood circulation due to diabetes so probably nothing will really m,ake me comfortable in the cold. However, it might be that some dietary things could improve it somewhat.

  • BkCreative profile image

    BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    Ah, so this explains why I am one of those people that just doesn't get cold. I'm eating the right yang foods. I'm one of those folks that will see friends off on a fine winter day and just step outside with no coat while all my friends are screaming to go back inside.

    So yes, bring on those yang vegetables and fruits and grains and wonderful spices that I regularly enjoy. I must share this with my shivering friends.

    Thanks and rated up of course!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

    Great information and I tend to think that a swig or two from my flask keeps me nice and toasty - only kidding. I can't carry a flask because my mals would want a drink of that too!

    Good points to make though and do believe warm beverages are the ticket on biting cold days. I think that's why I love to cook even more in the winter months as the foods you mention just 'make sense'. There must be some excuse why I find myself in the kitchen all the time~~

    Happy holidays, Om - and stay warm!!

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Very inspiring hub. I love winter and I learn new thing about winter and what should we do in winter to stay warm. Thank you very much for share with us. Rated up and useful!


  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    @moonlake - Never get above 12 degrees? brrrrrrrrrr!!!! That is cold indeed. Thanks so much for stopping by. Don't try to eat too much, though. Eat smaller portions of healthy food but eat more often. That's the trick!

    @ktrapp - Yeah, traditional Chinese cooking is all about balance. Thanks for the read and comment!

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    @jenubouka - Yeah, I guess you're right. Our body might be sending us a message to eat more during wintertime. To avoid winter weight gain, I don't think we have to fight against our desire to eat but simply need to be more careful with what we choose to eat.

    @dahoglund - Hi! Drinking one or two cups of ginger tea a day might help. It can improve blood circulation and according to some recent research studies, might also help lower blood sugar levels.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    @BkCreative - Oh, lucky you! Thanks for stopping by. Hope your shivering friends follow these tips and get warmer.

    @akirchner - hahaha I actually would love to see you walk around with a flask and a group of drunk malamutes! Happy holidays to you, too. Have an awesome Christmas!

    @prasetio - Thanks for the read, Pras. Enjoy the winter!

  • shazy bee profile image

    shazy bee 5 years ago from London, England

    "shudder at the very first whiff of winter breeze"

    Spot on that's exactly like me haha! Great read :)

  • Darkmetaly profile image

    Daníel Guðmundsson 5 years ago from Iceland Höfn í Hornafirði.

    I have always liked the winter chill the air feels so fresh doing the winter time.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 5 years ago

    I'm with you on this topic. In fact, Chinese people pay great attention to this yin/yang balance. The yang foods are also called heaty foods and I definitely need to eat more of these during the cold winter months. Like you, I'm a total winter wimp. Very timely topic and rated up:))

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    @shazy bee - Hello, my fellow winter wimp. Thanks for the read! Hope you stay warm!

    @Darkmetaly - Good for you! One thing I have noticed is that guys tend to like the winter more than women do. Just like you, my fiancé is enjoying the cold weather very much.

    @anglnwu - Aren't we lucky our ancesters were so wise? Thanks for stopping by and happy holidays!

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

    What a well informed and useful hub.

    It has to have an up up and away here.

    Take care and enjoy your day.


  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    Thanks so much, Eiddwen. Hope you enjoy your day as well. Happy holidays. :)

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

    Great hub! I'm always cold in the winter. I am a tea addict too, just to help stay warm. That and I'm a huge fan of my wood stove. :D Thanks for sharing.

  • mljdgulley354 profile image

    mljdgulley354 5 years ago

    I had never considered food to help stay warm. This was a wonderful and informative hub. Thank you for sharing.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    @cclitgirl - Yep, you can make some hot tea on your awesome wood stove and sip it all day to stay warm. Sounds like a nice way to spend a cold winter day. :)

    @mljdgulley - You're welcome. Glad you found these tips interesting and useful. Stay warm! :)

  • thumbi7 profile image

    JR Krishna 5 years ago from India

    It is the right time I saw this hub. We are planning to travel to a city with temperature at five degrees whereas our hometown's temperature is around 28 to 30. Thanks for the useful information.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    Oh, wow. Five degrees! You'd better eat a lot of yang food and drink ginger tea all day long. Have a fun trip. :)

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Om,

    You should do a Yin food list hub. Then we can compare the two and eat or drink more of the appropriate foods whether it is hot or cold outside. Thanks! Interesting, useful and up votes.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    I will! Thanks so much for the read and comment, Peggy. Always good to see you. :)

  • SanneL profile image

    SanneL 5 years ago from Sweden

    OK, now I know I have to get yin/yang balanced, to make it through the Scandinavian cold winter!Lol!

    I had never considered food to help keep me stay warm.

    Great hub and very useful.


  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

    Scandinavian winter? BRRRRRRRRRR!!! Yep, you might need to load up on yang foods!

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