When cold weather strikes a chilling blow, it makes sense to consume healthy, warming, concentrated foods. Dark orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and carrots provide immune nourishing beta-carotene and the warmth of the orange ray.
Grounding roots (especially those that grow in cold climates) such as onions, rutabagas and turnips can help one better acclimate to the seasons. Other warming foods include arugula, mustard greens, and watercress. Nuts, seeds, and their butters make excellent warming and insulating snacks. Icy cold drinks can cool you quick. If consuming food from the refrigerator, take the item out and allow it to get to room temperature before eating.
The flavor associated with winter is salty and rather than relying on table salt, learn to enjoy the wonderful mineral rich seaweeds such as kelp, nori, hiziki, and dulse which can be used to season food. Celtic or Himalayan salt contain more minerals, as indicated by their colors. Black colored foods such as black sesame seeds, uncured black olives, and chia seeds make wonderful warming winter condiments.
Culinary herbs that help us feel warmer and improve circulation include:
- Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a member of the Piperaceae (Pepper) Family. It has antiseptic, and antioxidant properties.
- Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), a member of the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) Family, is an expectorant, thus helping to open the respiratory passages.
- Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens), a member of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) Family. It is rich in vitamin C, and helps relieve chills, coughs and congestion. Sprinkling a bit of cayenne pepper between one's shoes and socks can help warm the feet when needing to be outdoors. (Avoid the eyes and mouth!)
- Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is a member of the Lauraceae (Laurel) Family. It helps dry dampness in the body and warms people that are always cold and suffering from poor circulation. Cinnamon is antiseptic and an excellent digestive tonic.
- Garlic (Allium sativum), a member of the Liliaceae (Lily) Family, helps one be more resistant to infection. Garlic is a potent vasodilator and improves circulation by helping to prevent the blood from clumping together.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale), a member of the Zingiberceae Family, is a natural antioxidant and antiseptic. It improves circulation to all parts of the body. Ginger baths are warming, muscle relaxing and cold and flu relieving and can be made by simmering eight ounces of ginger into a half gallon of water, simmering at a low boil for twenty minutes, then straining into the bathtub.
- Horseradish (Armoracia lapathifolia) is a member of the Brassicaceae (Mustard) Family. It is high in vitamin C, and aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Horseradish is antiseptic and a strong decongestant; helping to open congested respiratory passages.
Use more of the warming culinary herbs to spice up your food and as teas to promote a healthy, warming glow throughout the body. Most of the herbs in chai are considered warming (cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and cardamom).
Enjoy warmly dressed walks taking in some of the full spectrum light during this darker time of the year. Wearing bright, warm colors such as red and copper may contribute to one's feeling warm, according to the ancient art of Color Therapy. Mom was right. We do lose heat through the head and wearing a hat and scarf can help protect the chest, throat and ears from cold invasion that can contribute to infection. Protect the kidneys by wearing undershirts tucked into long johns for example. Yoga, t'ai chi, chi gung, stretching, crawling (helps prevent joint problems) and dancing can easily be practiced indoors even on days where you don't venture out.
What are some of your favorite ways to stay warm?
Brigitte Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for over forty years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University, Omega, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman Holistic College of Nutrition. She has a weekly local radio show called "Naturally" on KGNU and a private practice. Brigitte is the author of twelve books, including The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, Healing Herbal Teas
, and Rawsome!
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