I’m almost afraid to ask “How cold can it get?” for fear that Mother Nature will show me.
Like everyone else, I’m trying to stay warm.
When I was growing up, there was a commercial on television for Cream of Wheat that showed a bowl of the hot cereal floating behind a child all day.
The commercial showed the boy playing in the snow with the cereal bowl hovering close behind. The point of the ad was that the cereal would follow and protect your child all day long, like the guardian angel of grain.
But thinking about it got me wondering whether there’s something I should be eating that would help to keep me warm all day. Some foods are considered thermogenic – ones that will help our bodies generate heat. But will they keep us warm?
It was a question for someone with a better science background than mine, so I had an interesting chat with Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
She explained that while the effects of any foods that will warm us up will be short-lived, there are plenty of things we can eat to rev up our metabolism, and that’s where thermogenic foods play their part.
The thermic effect of food is essentially how much your body has to work in order to process that food, Kirkpatrick said.
Thermogenic foods are metabolism boosters. When our metabolism is at its peak, our bodies are actually working harder, and we are warmer as a result. Think of it like exercise for your internal system.
“Metabolism is your fire; we talk in terms of keeping your fire burning,” Kirkpatrick explained.
Because the thermic effect of any food will be short-lived, the key is to continue to eat metabolism boosters throughout the day to keep our fires burning.
So what foods are we talking about?
• This seems like a no-brainer, but warm liquids, of course. Soup is a natural go-to at this time of year, as well as warm beverages like tea, especially green tea, and even coffee.
While soup will only make you feel warm for a short time, coffee and tea have caffeine, which is a natural metabolism booster, she said. Kirkpatrick said studies show that green tea is particularly effective in speeding up our metabolism.
• Eat whole foods, not processed foods, to keep your fire burning. Studies have shown that processed foods actually slow down metabolism, while whole foods keep it going. Whole foods have a lot of fiber, which takes more energy to break down.
• Eat foods high in iron. Spinach, lentils, tofu and oysters are good sources of iron. Yes, red meat is iron-rich, but it’s also a great way to pack on the pounds, so if you do choose red meat, enjoy lean cuts in moderation, Kirkpatrick said.
• Eat foods high in protein.
Consider having eggs for breakfast. For snacks, nuts are another great source of protein, and they’re also a whole food.
• Just eating breakfast is one of the best ways to rev up your metabolism.
“People who consume breakfast tend to have a higher metabolism. You really need to jump-start your system when you wake up,” Kirkpatrick said.
• Finally, stay hydrated to keep your metabolism at its peak. Many folks don’t drink water in the winter the way they do in the warmer months, but being dehydrated is a sure way to slow down your metabolism.
In addition to drinking water, Kirkpatrick said eating foods that are high in water, like spinach and watermelon, will help us stay hydrated. Also, avoid alcoholic beverages, which are dehydrating.
• There’s another benefit to keeping our metabolism charged up – we’ll burn more calories. That means we may exit winter and discover we’ve actually lost five pounds, not gained them.
That thought alone is enough to warm the heart.