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Cooking up some warmth

We all know that food affects our moods. Only a very few, however, know that the right ingredients — and not just the temperature it is served at — in food can also help you feel warmer, reports Sanchita Sharma.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 10, 2010 00:12 IST
Sanchita Sharma

We all know that food affects our moods. Only a very few, however, know that the right ingredients — and not just the temperature it is served at — in food can also help you feel warmer.

Ayurveda mentions that certain ‘warm foods’ can keep out the winter chill. Now a new research says that foods with a high thermic effect — energy spent by the bodies to metabolise and store food — play in keeping us warm. The heating effect is the incremental energy requirement above your resting metabolic rate to digest, absorb and dispose ingested food. The thermic effect of proteins is the highest (about 30 per cent) which means that a third of the calories of the food go in digesting it. Raw fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates also have a high thermic effect (20 per cent) which compares well with fats (5 per cent) or simple sugars (3 per cent).

Eating warming foods such as proteins pushes up the body’s basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy spent while you’re resting. Since most of the energy goes to supporting ongoing digestion and other metabolic work, such as the heartbeat, respiration and maintaining the body’s temperature, you end up feeling warmer without putting on weight.

For starters, begin the day with fried eggs, sunny side up, and try to include one portion of protein in all your meals. Have meats (red meats are warmer than poultry or fish), cheese or eggs, along with wholegrain chapattis and legumes. Avoid excessive fats and sugars.

Tanking up on warm fluids also helps but go easy on the tea and coffee. Caffeinated and carbonated beverages make you feel colder. Instead, have at least three to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids a day such as herbal tea with ginger and lemon, lentil soups and warm milk. But if it is just tea, coffee or other caffeinated drinks that you end up having, increase your water intake to make up for their diuretic effect.

Alcohol too helps to push up the body temperature within a short period of time, but the warmth generated is temporary. Since alcohol makes you feel warmer by dilating the capillaries under the skin surface — that’s what makes the skin appear flushed — the body loses warmth equally quickly, leaving you feeling colder than before you had a drink.

Ayurveda has its own set of dos and don’ts. It recommends soft and moist foods — such as pasta, cooked cereals, porridge and lentil soups — over dry and crunchy foods, such as raw vegetables for warmth. Spices and condiments such as pepper, ginger and garlic are also recommended as they make you sweat more and help activate digestive juices.