Spices

Baby, it’s cold outside. And while everyone loves cozying up in a warm wintery sweater, we can also heat ourselves up with our food choices. Bonus: These 3 warming plants have significant health benefits, too.

Ginger is a powerful plant root. If your association is only Schweppes, Canada Dry or cookies shaped like oddly round men, then you’ve got a lot of fun ahead of you! Ginger is used around the world in everything from pickles and jams to tea, soup and of course, as a spice. The diluted and sugared ginger ales barely touch on its potency (Reed’s Ginger Beer on the other hand gives a well-rounded bite of the spicy medicinal tonic). When using the fresh root, you’re accessing the anti-inflammatory powers, the immune boosting effects and the warming heat. It’s also one of the best foods for stomach upset whether from pregnancy, overeating or motion sickness. Try adding ginger to sautéed vegetables, in your own homemade chai recipe, or push it through your juicer to spice up your veggie juice. You can even drink it solo like a shot… it’ll warm you and energize you at the same time.

Cinnamon makes us think of lots of things from Seinfeld episodes (“Cinnamon Babka?”) to oatmeal cookies and potpourri. It’s a bark, which is something we don’t eat lots of, but it’s been used for thousands of years. While you might not think of cinnamon as a spicy food, it’s actually a very potent and dominating flavor. (Try to eat a spoonful and you’ll discover its spiciness!) It’s a flavor we strongly associate with the winter and holiday season for its warmth and spicy sweetness. And recently, quite a bit of research has linked it to protection against HIV, certain types of cancer and an effective antiviral agent. It may work in Alzheimer’s patients, has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels and it can curb your appetite… even as cinnamon-spiced ciders and cookies dart at you from every direction during the holidays.

Cayenne is the quintessential spicy-spice. It adds flavor and depth to foods from chocolate to cheese, and it also contains a number of vitamins including A, B6, E and C. Beyond its flavorful and spicy addition to your meal, it can also improve blood circulation, which will boost your core temperature. And because it’s hot, we tend to eat more slowly, which can prevent overeating, especially helpful during the winter holidays.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: jo-h