I’ve tried many things to warm my skinny fingers on winter bike commutes. Wool mittens with overmitts are best for the coldest days, but the most interesting heat source I’ve found is my diet. I’ve rediscovered what the Chinese learned ages ago when they classified food as warming and cooling. Science now understands that “warming foods” work in part through better circulation, stoking the internal furnace.
One winter I experimented focusing my diet on warming foods and spices. On my morning oatmeal, I add small amounts of cayenne, cinnamon and powdered ginger– each has its own warming properties. Cayenne in particular is great for improving circulation. At work I keep a shaker of cayenne to add lightly to my lunch and at dinner I may add red pepper flakes or hot sauce. Even small amounts will help. There’s no need to create painful levels of heat. I combined this with centering my winter diet on warming foods like potatoes, onion and garlic. I cut out cooling foods like cucumbers, lettuce and ice water. Now my hands now stay warmer, longer throughout the winter.
You may also rub a little cayenne directly on your fingers and toes before you go out for immediate additional warmth. Add more slowly– it’s possible actually use too much in a result in painful burning sensation. Further references:
- How to Keep Kids Warm on the slopes. This page includes the Cayenne-in-the-gloves tips and others
- Flourishing in Chicago’s Winter includes a number of easy tips to improve winter warmth, including using cayenne.
- Cayenne for improved blood flow explains about cayenne’s ability to improve circulation
- Chinese food chart for warming and cooling foods (PDF) summarizes which foods are considered to have warming and cooling properties.
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