I don’t know about you, but the more the weather turns cold, the more my body craves hot food. It’s actually not surprising; eating hot food in cold weather warms our bodies from within, and feels infinitely more soothing and satisfying than eating cold.
Ancient peoples also believed that creating and retaining body heat comes from within, and today we know that they had the right idea. The process of eating generates heat that helps warm the body, and the warming effect (known as thermogenesis) occurs when energy is released during digestion. Ever notice that you tend to eat more in winter? You’re not alone — the drop in body temperature stimulates the appetite, which is nature’s way of getting us to eat to warm up.
Ancient traditional medical systems from the East (like Chinese, Hindu, Korean and Vietnamese traditional medicines) considered foods to have innate cooling or heating qualities and energetic attributes as well. According to their theories, uncooked fruits and vegetables are energetically cold foods. Since they are quickly digested and excreted, they cannot be a source of long-lasting energy and warmth. Cooked vegetables, on the other hand, and (seasonal) root vegetables in particular, are regarded as some of the most desirable foods for winter.
Spices and herbs are also considered to have warming attributes as well, like garlic and ginger, cumin, coriander seeds, caraway, cloves and turmeric as well as basil, oregano and thyme. All of these contain phytonutrients with anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties to help increase digestive enzymes, which can aid in the body’s processing of more difficult foods to digest, like beans.
One of my favorite ways to warm up in the winter is to breakfast on hot cereal, usually made from quick cooking oats and milk, with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a drop of honey or maple syrup. Fortunately, I raised my daughters on various hot cereals (daisa in Hebrew) as well, so they actually looked forward to eating it on winter mornings before school (a genuine accomplishment, wouldn’t you say?).
Here are my tips: Avoid the instant individual-serving packaged oatmeal, because it has added sugar and chemical additives, and choose quick-cooking oatmeal instead. Cook it with double the amount of liquid (milk, half milk and half water, or a substitute milk) if you like it thick like we do, even more liquid if you like it thin. Sweeten with honey, maple syrup, silan or agave, season with cinnamon/ginger/cardamom/pinch of salt or nutmeg, and top with raisins, goji berries or fresh fruit if desired.
For a true power breakfast, try this gluten-free supergrain mix that you grind and keep in a closed jar in the refrigerator for several months:
Supergrain Super Cereal (serves two)
All ingredients are easy to find in health food stores.
- 1 tablespoon quinoa flour
- 2 tablespoons millet flour
- 2 tablespoons amaranth, ground or whole (or other grain)
1) Heat two cups milk or milk substitute in a small nonstick pot over low heat.
2) Stir the flour mixture into the milk gradually together with a pinch of salt and a half teaspoon of cinnamon.
3) Stir continually until the mixture begins to bubble and there are no lumps.
4) Stir in a few tablespoons of raisins or cranberries, cover and cook over lowest possible heat about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and thickened. To give it a chocolate flavor, add 2-4 tablespoons of carob syrup, or serve with honey, agave, silan or real maple syrup.
To make in bulk (makes 10 servings)
- 10 tablespoons (half cup + 2 tbsp.) quinoa flour (or quinoa, ground)
- 20 tablespoons (1¼ cups) millet flour (or millet, ground)
- 20 tablespoons (1¼ cups) amaranth, ground or whole flour, or other
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
Recipe adapted from “No Gluten, No Sugar” by Phyllis Glazer, Korim Publishers.