These foods that warm us

Who says cold says hot. Pot au feu ? Boiled chicken? Not only. Many ingredients can warm us up. From pepper to mushroom, via cinnamon or anchovy, discover how to raise the temperature for a mild and comforting winter.

As soon as the temperatures drop and the light drops, it’s physiological, you feel the urge to warm up. We do this in different ways: we wrap ourselves in layers of clothing, turn up the heat, and eat foods that keep us warm. Which does not necessarily mean too rich, like these “comfort foods”, as the psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders Gérard Apfeldorfer calls them, often too fatty and/or too sweet. Because if they warm us up at the time and “stick to the body” – for example tartiflette or raclette – they also make a difference on the scales, and in a much more lasting way than winter.

There are foods that increase the feeling of heat, without the kilos, by acting on the body like “the breath of the dragon”, think of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. They classify them into four categories: cold, fresh, lukewarm, hot, a classification that has nothing to do with the temperature at which they are consumed. Cold and cool nourish insufficient yin and chase away heat and fire; hot and warm nourish insufficient yang and dispel cold.

It is therefore a question of choosing them well. A lot of’spices (cloves, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, ginger), but also sulfur foods (shallot, onion, garlic, spring onion, mustard), aromatic (thyme, bay leaf, rosemary), oilseeds (nuts, almonds), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, dried beans), mushroomsfrom vegetables (parsnip, pumpkin, carrot), tubers (potato, yam), cereals (rice, buckwheat, oats).

hot water bottle ingredients

Although the goal is the same – to be less cold – their mode of action is different. Because they have a higher thermal power than others, some act on thermogenesis, the body’s heat production and regulation mechanism. “Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine say that spices and aromatics light the digestive fire, Western medicine says that they cause enzymatic secretions”, specifies Sylvie Schäfer, doctor of pharmacy and naturopath. These nutrients cause a cascade of chemical reactions in the body. Thus the secretion of digestive enzymes is felt as soon as the food is in the mouth – it triggers a significant production of saliva. Among other things, they facilitate the digestion of proteins that regulate blood sugar. “It is no coincidence that in the past we ate game during these winter periods, explains Sylvie Schäfer. This protein-rich, low-fat meat was first left to decompose to release the enzymes, then macerated in wine and spices to further improve its digestibility, before being cooked with various herbs. »

All traditional and seasonal stewsas the pot au feuthe small saltythe cassouletthe boiled chicken, the fondue, are real hot water bottles for the body, while being very digestible, because they cook long and slowly accompanied by herbs and spices. These also improve the digestion of vegetables and legumes by eliminating germs that give gas. Spices, especially pepper, also have a vasodilating effect: the vessels dilate and allow blood to circulate more abundantly in the stomach and intestines. Better irrigated, the cells will secrete more enzymes and warm us better. Like a virtuous circle.

Energy for Morale

Some foods act by stimulating our endocrine system, therefore the secretion of all our hormones. To better adapt to the cold, it is for example important to support the thyroid by eating groatsfrom Gingerfrom sea ​​foodfrom algae like laminaria, fucus… “The thyroid, the body’s real boiler, influences body temperature, observes Jean-Christophe Charrié, doctor, phytotherapist and author with Marie-Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre de Natural healing all year round (Éditions Prat), but it does not always manage to adapt to climate change or adjust the temperature at the right time. This explains the hot flashes or excessive chills. »

The doctor advises to also support the adrenal glands, or adaptive glands, by consuming herbs and plants (savory, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon) and fruits rich in vitamin C (parsley, citrus fruits, seasonal fruits). They increase our ability to adapt to temperature variations, an important characteristic in winter, when we go from hot to cold in minutes. Thermogenesis therefore naturally promotes the production of digestive enzymes that metabolize nutrients and eliminate waste and toxins. In other words, they are essential. Producing enough of it helps to strengthen our body. From sleep and digestion to weight and energy, we are healthier. “These foods have a very good energy value”, assures Sylvie Schäfer, they provide a lot of energy, and therefore heat, for few calories. They also improve protein digestibility and prevent us from hypoglycemic attacks – our sudden cravings for sweets – which are very common in winter. The naturopath even goes so far as to say that these “warming” foods have a significant impact on our morale and could prevent us from seasonal depression.

To each temperament its nutrients

That said, this type of food is not recommended for everyone without distinction. Naturopaths distinguish several types of temperaments. People called “blood plethoric” (who have an overabundance of blood), are rather robust, tolerate cold well and have a natural tendency to rosacea. If their ability to digest these “hot” foods is good, they react very quickly to their heating power. They will therefore avoid dishes that are too spicy and drinks such as wine. People called “neuro-arthritics”, rather thin, naturally chilly – they do not tolerate winter well – will, for their part, have every interest in favoring this type of food to warm up.

But their digestion is not necessarily easy. “We advise them to combine ‘hot’ foods with raw vegetables and salad, which improves digestibility”, specifies Sylvie Schäfer. And to add: “Whatever his temperament, it is always better to consume them at lunch rather than at dinner, because increasing the calorific energy in the evening prevents sleep and can lead to unpleasant night sweats. »

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A grandmother’s remedy

To treat rheumatism and bronchitis, poultices were once made with mustard, with a soothing effect against aches and coughs. “A mustard foot bath is also a very good decongestant for the head,” explains naturopath Sylvie Schäfer.

And the method of preparation? It obviously influences the ability of food to warm us, underlines the naturopath. “Microwaves tend to break down food by modifying the water it contains. This will no longer be assimilated in the same way. It is better to favor long cooking over low heat (below 100°C), dishes simmered in a cast iron casserole, a “vitalizer” or a pressure cooker.These cooking methods retain their properties, as well as their lukewarm or spicy character.

Four anti-cold recipes


Every morning for three to ten days, simmer two to three tablespoons of oatmeal poured into oat milk or water. Add a spoonful of dark honey and cinnamon. The benefits: ideal for supporting the thyroid when it is a little low.


Peel and cut a pumpkin into thin slices. Fry a peeled and chopped onion in a tablespoon of sesame oil. Add the pumpkin slices. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add thirty grams of chopped fresh ginger and two crushed cloves of garlic. When the pumpkin mashes easily with a fork, it’s ready. Sprinkle with parsley and serve as a puree, with rice or quinoa, or in soup by adding water. Benefits: The sweet flavor of pumpkin boosts energy, nourishes the blood and organs, eliminates mucus and dampness. Hot in nature, onion warms the spleen and stomach. Ginger activates the blood and stimulates the meridians.
Recipe taken from Chinese medicine, health, fitness and dietetics by Jean-Marc Eyssalet and Évelyne Malnic (Odile Jacob).


In the evening, in a saucepan, boil one hundred and twenty-five centiliters of water. Add one hundred and fifty grams of organic brown rice and cook until the grains burst (about an hour); add a leek, two carrots, an onion, a turnip, a stalk of celery, all diced. Cook over low heat for one hour. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and wrap it with a tea towel. The next morning, heat this soup by adding a little water. Season with shoyu (soy sauce). The benefits: A variant of the rice porridge served in Japanese temples after morning zazen, this comforting recipe provides energy and gentle warmth for the whole day.
Extract of Daily Zen well-being by Erik Pigani and Flavia Mazelin Salvi (LGF, “The Pocket Book”).


Weather stripping: cut a four centimeter cube in a ginger rhizome, peel it. Boiling. Pour into a Thermos and drink all day. Spicy: Put a pinch of cayenne pepper, a 1 cm cube of peeled ginger (or a teaspoon of powdered ginger) and a teaspoon of honey in a cup. Add simmering water.

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