ShanghaiColdWinterWith cooler weather settling in and even colder temperatures on their way, we could all use a little internal heat, right?  What better way to feel a warm glow rise over you and dispel the chill from your bones than with good foods and specially-chosen warming spices.

Some spices are known to have a warming effect, while other have more of a cooling effect–think about the cool, refreshing taste of mint versus the spicy, warming sensation from ginger…

Traditional Chinese Medicine has categorized every conceivable materia medica (herb) according to whether its warming or cooling (or neutral). In fact, a number of commonly used kitchen spices have been noted for their warming or cooling properties.

With winter on its way, think about using some of these warming spices in your next meal.

Warming Spices

Cinnamon – Try adding cinnamon to coffee, desserts, yogurt, cereal, on chicken, or even just boiling it into a tea-like infusion. Cinnamon is also good for balancing the release of insulin when consumed with sweet foods, hence its traditional use in a lot of dessert recipes.

Ginger teaGinger – One on the most popular Asian spices, ginger can used in sweet or savory dishes, depending on what its combined with: try it in stirfry, soup, boiling into an infusion, or a dessert like carrot cake.  The dried form of ginger is more intensely warming than fresh.

Pepper – Not surprisingly, pepper is an intensely warming spice.  To really turn up the heat, try Sichuan peppercorn, which are so extreme, they have a numbing effect. Note: white pepper is more neutral than warming.

Cardamon – Cardamon, either pods cooked whole then strained out, or seeds, are warming and are popular in India and Middle Eastern dishes. Pods can be tossed in when cooking rice, seeds are popular in many Central Asian and Indian dishes, and ground cardamon is a nice spiced addition to coffee or desserts.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel – Fennel seeds, besides being warming, are also effective in aiding digestion, reducing bloating, and refreshing the breath. You’ll recognize them by their licorice taste.

Clove – Popular in African and Middle Eastern cuisine, whole cloves can be added to rice or legume dishes (then strained out) or ground clove is often called for in dessert recipes.

Safflower – The more affordable cousin of Saffron, safflower is also a good way to add some warming properties to dishes; try it in Spanish or North African dishes.

Turmeric root for JamuGalangal (Turmeric) – Besides being warming and encouraging blood circulation, turmeric is an incredible anti-inflammatory.  For people who tend to get seasonal arthritis (due to cold and damp), adding more turmeric to your diet is essential in this season.  Try Indian food, curry, or turmeric “tea.”

With your next meal, think about adding a few pinches of these spices into your soup, stew, curry, bone broth, or even dessert for their warming properties, and appreciate their many other health benefits, as well.

Coming up soon, warming teas and drinks…