Tis the Season of Spice
As the days continue to cool, our bodies struggle to adjust to this new weather pattern. Will you be sitting on the couch cloaked in a blanket (already?) shivering in the cold or will you manage the shift in weather with grace and comfort?
We all know that our foods need to change to accommodate the weather; we shift from iceberg lettuce and cucumber salads to roasted winter squash and sweet potatoes; from corn on the cob to long cooked brown rice; from quick stir fry dishes to hearty stews.
But did you know that there are spices ‘designed’ by Mother Nature to help us feel more cozy during cold weather???
Control of our body’s temperature is managed through a process known as ‘thermoregulation.’ It’s a complicated process that involves just about every organ system in the body, from our brain to our skin. To make things even more complicated, the way we experience cold or heat may have little to do with our actual body temperature…and lots to do with our perception of the weather. Either way, there are things we can do to feel more comfortable no matter the weather.
Lots of research is being done on ‘thermogenic’ or heat-producing foods, but like most research it often doesn’t translate into steps to be taken in our day-to-day lives.
So here’s a wee primer on some spices you can incorporate into your cooking to help you hold onto heat this winter.
Garlic helps one be more resistant to infection. Garlic is a potent vasodilator and improves circulation by helping to prevent the blood from clumping together. And that helps warm the body.
A natural antioxidant and antiseptic, ginger improves circulation to all parts of the body. Ginger baths are warming, muscle relaxing and cold and flu relieving (This simple bath is made by simmering 8 ounces grated fresh ginger into a half gallon of water for about twenty minutes, then straining into the bathtub.)
High in vitamin C, horseradish aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Horseradish is antiseptic and a strong decongestant; helping to open congested respiratory passages.
Cloves improve blood circulation, clear the respiratory passages, and keep your digestive system healthy especially in cold weather. Add a clove or two to ‘gas-causing’ foods such as cauliflower, cabbage and beans, which we cook more in cold weather so your stomach will stay calm.
This fragrant, warming spice heals the respiratory tract, keeping you balanced, warm and feeling energetic. Enjoy it in tea, pop a pod of it when cooking rice, or add it to baked squash or pumpkin soup.
Winter is intolerable without it, but while you love its delicate, sweet fragrance, it’s yummy knowing that cinnamon brings relief from arthritis, keeps the brain sharp, fights bacteria, lowers bad cholesterol, balances blood sugar and helps us feel warm.
Roast a spoonful of cumin seeds in a pan and its lovely perfume will stimulate your taste buds, the first step toward good digestion, which keeps us naturally warm. Cumin has been used for centuries to treat colds and coughs and is also a powerful disinfectant is the perfect cold weather spice.
So much more than the sprinkle on your soup or salad, in winter, black pepper is a great ally in battling chest congestion, boosting appetite, improving digestion and protecting you from germs and pollution. And warm? You’ll be toasty and cozy with a regular sprinkle of this spice on a variety of dishes.