Recently I had a conversation with a client about being oddly nostalgic for the snow back in New England. She astutely reminded me that cold snowy days are beautiful and adventurous and exciting the first few times we get them, it’s the prolonged season of freezing temps that becomes hard to handle, especially as an outdoor athlete. In order for those of us from New England and other seasonal climates to thrive, we learn to embrace the seasonal changes, rather than fight them. In the winter, we grab our snowshoes, hook up to Zwift, stock up on latex gloves and toe warmers, and pull out our crockpot and soup recipes. While modifying activities and mating hot foods are key ways to make the most of winter training, but there are also some less obvious food choices that can help keep you warm!
Chinese medicine teaches us that certain foods contain either yin (cool) or yang (warm) energetic properties that are unrelated with the temperature at which these foods are served. Ever notice how appealing watermelon is at a hot summer picnic? Or how tempting that chili smells when you enter the lodge from a cold ski run? Part of this has to do with watermelon’s innate cooling properties, and chili powder’s warming properties. According to Chinese medicine, as we digest warming foods, they help heat and invigorate by boosting metabolism and blood flow, sending heat and energy to the surface of our skin. It’s said that foods that take longer to grow, such as winter squash and collard greens, are more warming to the body than foods that grow quickly like lettuce and summer squash. Also, in general, blue, green, and purple foods are more cooling while orange, red, and yellow foods are more warming.
● Vegetables: chili peppers, collard greens, kale, winter squash, carrots, leeks, parsnips, potatoes/sweet potatoes, pumpkin, turnips, shallots, garlic, onions, leeks.
● Grains: oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, millet
● Nuts and seeds: walnuts, cashews, almonds, chestnuts, sesame seeds, hemp seeds.
● Fruits: pear, dates, coconut, cherry, mango, blackberries/raspberries.
● Animal products: beef, eggs, lamb, pork, poultry, oily fish, mussels, butter.
● Spices and seasonings: clove, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cumin, ginger, pepper, basil, nutmeg, turmeric, miso, soy sauce
If you’re a smoothie person like me, but don’t like the chill you often get after drinking one on a cold winter morning, here’s a couple “warming” alternatives I’ve enjoyed from mindbodygreen.com.
1 cup collards, packed
½ cup frozen cherries, defrosted overnight
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups almond or coconut milk
¼ cup almond butter
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled
20-plus grams chocolate pea protein
½ cup pureed pumpkin or leftover mashed sweet potato
1 cup kale, packed
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1 pear, seeds removed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly peeled ginger
2 cups unsweetened coconut or almond milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ½ avocado
20-plus grams vanilla pea protein
pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 knob ginger
1 teaspoon bee pollen (optional)
1/4 cup ground flax
1/2 cup milk of your choice
For a nice hot chili that boast extra warming ingredients (onion, pepper, chili, cumin, coconut oil, garlic, miso, beef) try my simple crock pot recipe. Vegetarians can simply leave out the beef and enjoy the protein and heartiness from the lentils and beans.
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper
1 jalapeño, diced with seeds
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 3/4 cup water, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons miso paste (I use this one)
3/4 cup dry red lentils, rinsed
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, slightly drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, slightly drained
1 pound ground bison or grass-fed beef
Place all ingredients in crock pot in the morning and cook on high for 6 hours.