06
Sep 2010
by mark

what really keeps me warmer in the winter: my diet

Hot tea before winter cycling
I’ve been noticeably more comfortable in recent winters while at the same time
using lightweight gloves more frequently, using my face mask less frequently,
and not using my goggles at all.


I believe this is not due to global warming but due to a concerted effort I made tune what I ate and drank throughout the season. I took what I learned about cayenne last year and took it further this year. I focused my diet on warming foods, which also often meant eating more seasonly. Eating more seasonally meant considering what grows locally here each season. Some specific changes to my diet for the winter season included:

  • Avoiding nearly all fruit, which is generally cooling. My weaknesses for figs, dates and orange juice remained.
  • Avoiding light greens, fresh tomatoes and salads, which are also cooling. My favorite substitution for greens with a winter meal is kale, which grows into the winter season and is extremely nutrient dense. Besides being served as a side dish, the kale got served in minestrone soup and tacos.
  • Replacing the avocado and tomato in my lunch with green beans and mildly hot peppers
  • Adding three warming spices to my oatmeal in the morning: Cinnamon with a pinch of ginger and cayenne.
  • Using cayenne or hot pepper flakes as a condiment for lunch and dinner on many days to add a little more heat to nearly any dish
  • Ordering water with no ice at restaurants (why cool down my core even more when I’m trying to stay warm?)
  • Having hot tea shortly before leaving for the morning commute
  • Avoiding ice cream and other frozen foods and drinks
  • Eating a lot of beets, which are good at purifying and cleansing blood and removing toxins.

We also keep the thermostat low, typically 60F (15C). Besides the energy savings, the reduced difference between indoors and outdoors makes it easier for our bodies to adjust to the transition. To be clear, the result was not that I had an increased pain tolerance for cold weather. The result was that my comfort range actually expanded. My toes got cold just one day, while I was standing around the back yard doing a bike repair. I only ever wore lightweight wool dress socks which are the same thickness as regular dress socks. My thick wool mittens and the second layer over-mitts rarely got worn. My light weight “wind gloves” previously used mostly in spring and fall were worn on most days.

The ancient Chinese and Indian cultures figured out warming and cooling foods thousands of years ago. In Western science we understand these choices in terms of providing better circulation and raise the core body temperature. As summer comes, I’ll flip over my diet to apply the same principles to stay cool. Lots of big salads with avocado and cucumber will be in and some of the dense warming foods of winter will be out.

The experience was an “a ha” moment about how eating seasonally and locally connects with the rest of my life and supports other goals I have. My notion of what’s “good weather” expanded to include nearly everything. I recall running across the Richmond Avenue bring watching snow begin to fall into the river and trees in the gorge below. I noticed I felt comfortable then. Not cold. It was an enjoyable temperature to be outside. I felt more prepared. I worried even less about caught the wrong clothing for being outside. A greater part of my ability to be comfortable outside now came from within and not from products I bought. It’s been a great feeling to have. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

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