Foods That Are Scientifically Proven To Warm You Up When It’s Cold Outside

As the weather cools down, many people reach for a cup of tea or hot cocoa. These drinks are the ultimate warming snacks because they’re boiling hot. But plenty of other foods, including coconut oil and bananas, have the same effect on your body.

Although your body naturally warms from digestion, other factors such as increased blood flow raise your temperature more. This is how unexpected foods such as peanuts and ginger can help you feel warmer. As autumn and winter roll around, add these foods and drinks to your grocery list. They’re scientifically proven to heat your body naturally.

All Whole Grains Keep Your Body Warm

While a warm bowl of pasta will heat anyone up, whole grains keep you warmer for longer. Harvard’s School of Health explains that whole grain’s bran and fiber content is slow to break down. As your body digests food, it releases energy which warms your body.

Sliced whole wheat bread Austria.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Slow digestion also prevents spikes in blood sugar that can heat you up before rapidly cooling you down. According to the Journal of Nutrition, whole grains also promote gut health through their fiber. If you want to stay warm throughout the night, have a bowl of whole grain pasta, rice, or oatmeal.

Hot Or Iced Coffee Will Do The Trick

A hot cup of coffee sounds delicious on a chilly day. But it isn’t the temperature that heats your body up; it’s the caffeine. According to the University of Michigan’s Health Service, caffeine raises your heart rate and increases blood flow, both of which warm your body temperature.

A girl is drinking ice coffee in a Starbucks coffee shop.
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Caffeinated drinks include coffee, black and green teas, soft drinks, and even chocolate. Whether it’s hot or cold doesn’t matter as long as the caffeine is there. In fact, research suggests that iced drinks raise your body temperature more than hot drinks do.

Ironically, Iced Water Heats You Up

On cold days, it’s second nature to reach for a cup of hot tea or cocoa. But in 2012, researchers from the University of Ottawa challenged this habit. “What we found is that when you ingest a hot drink, you actually have a disproportionate increase in the amount that you sweat,” explained researcher Ollie Jay.

American born Israeli, Jackie Bitensky, gathers ice cubes for drinking water
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In short, hot drinks result in sweating. Because the sudden heat tells your body that you’re too hot, it’ll work to cool you down. Hence, hot drinks decrease your core temperature. If you drink iced water, this process will reverse. It may seem contradictory, but it’s science.

Don’t Touch That Alcohol

On chilly days, some people may reach for a glass of wine to lend them a brief sense of warmth. But this is only temporary. Recent studies have found that alcohol decreases your core body temperature, which may put you at risk of hypothermia in frosty environments.

Snow covers an advertising poster that features a smiling woman holding a champagne flute
Hennadii Minchenko / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Hennadii Minchenko / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A study published in a 2005 issue of Alcohol noted that the “hot” sensation after drinking alcohol causes people to sweat. This sweating lowers your body temperature after only 20 minutes. According to the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, alcohol reduces your ability to shiver, which is your body’s method of creating warmth.

Coconut Oil Warms You Up By Burning Fat

Coconut oil is packed with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These dietary supplements promote thermogenesis, the process by which the body warms itself after consuming a meal. According to 2018 research in PLoS One, MCTs raises body temperature by burning away belly fat. So it’s a win-win situation.

Bottle of liquid coconut oil in front of an open coconut

Another study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that MCTs help people feel fuller after a meal. Not only will you feel satisfied for longer, but you’ll feel warmer for longer after consuming coconut oil. This effect only works if you eat the oil, not put it on your skin.

Why Gingerbread Is Popular In Winter

Have you ever wondered why gingerbread-flavored foods and drinks pop up everywhere in the wintertime? The reason has less to do with the holidays and more to do with ginger being a warming food. In a 2018 issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, scientists found that ginger increased body temperature in women just ten minutes after consumption.

A baker sets almonds over typical Nuremberger ginger breads in a bakery

The reason is that ginger increases blood flow. The faster your blood pumps, the higher your body temperature (hence why you feel hot during a workout). In the study, researchers noted that ginger tea kept women warm for longer than other hot beverages.

If You Have A Cold, Drink Green Tea

When it comes to tea, green tea may produce the best body-warming effects. While green tea has caffeine, it also contains flavonoids called catechins. According to the Journal of the Indian Society of Periodontology, these flavonoids stimulate both the body and brain waves.

Green tea leaves steep in a tea cup

This brain stimulation creates a state of calm awareness. In other words, you receive the benefit of caffeine without excessive sweat or jitters. If you ‘re sick and shivering, these catechins can directly kill the bacteria and viruses, according to the same research.

The Most Unlikely Body Warmer: Bananas

Yes, even bananas can help you feel warmer. Bananas offer a substantial serving of B vitamins and magnesium, both of which help you feel toasty. “[A banana] helps the thyroid and adrenal glands regulate the body’s temperature in cold weather,” explains Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Lauren Minchen.

A customer holds bananas in front of a fruit shelf in an organic supermarket

Because bananas push your body to change your core temperature, they work on both hot and cold days. If you have a fever, you can potentially cool down by eating a banana. On chilly days, you may want to snack on some banana with peanut butter.

The Vitamins In Peanuts Will Heat You Up

Peanuts might not be someone’s first choice for a warming food, but they work. Peanuts contain a lot of magnesium, a vitamin that regulates body temperature. According to the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, magnesium cools the body faster in warm environments and heats it quickly in chilly weather.

Peanuts for a Health cover story on food allergies in the LA Times, 2009
Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Peanuts also offer vitamin B-3, which the U.S. Department of Health praises for raising blood circulation. Increased blood flow heightens body temperature, and peanut’s fatty acids ensure that it’ll warm your system for a while. Both peanuts and peanut butter produce this effect.

Why Does Turmeric Help? Because It’s Yellow

When you enjoy a serving a curry, you’re likely consuming turmeric powder. As a relative to ginger, turmeric also warms your body, but through a different method. The chemical that makes turmeric yellow, curcumin, is responsible. When the body absorbs curcumin, it helps release certain chemicals in the brain.

Indian Hindu devotees prepare a paste from turmeric powder during a community function

According to a scientific analysis in the journal Ayu, curcumin helps release dopamine, the chemical that triggers temperature regulation in the body. Curcumin also improved blood circulation, which adds more heat to your body. It’s no wonder that curry dishes make us feel warm afterward.

Is Cayenne Pepper Too Much Spice?

You may have noticed that spicy foods have not yet made the list. Spicy dishes spark sweating, which lowers your body temperature. That’s why spicy food is more popular in warmer climates. However, cayenne can warm your body despite the potential sweat.

Red hot cayenne peppers in a basket outside

Cayenne offers a chemical called capsaicin that digests slowly. According to a 2015 study in Open Heart, capsaicin increases gastric blood flow, which is both good for your gut and your body temperature. Since it works slowly, capsaicin warms you without raising your heart rate. Habaneros and jalapeƱos also contain capsaicin.

The More Meat You Eat, The Warmer You’ll Feel

After eating a lot of meat, some people experience the “meat sweats.” This happens because the body is using extra energy to break down food through thermogenesis. If you sweat too much, it’ll cool you down. But one serving of high-protein meat can be just enough to keep you warm.

Customers eat at Peter Lugar's Steak House
Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers state that eating meat-based protein requires more energy to break down than plant-based proteins such as soy. So eating a serving of lean beef, pork, or chicken may help you feel warmer for a while after eating.

Here’s An Excuse To Add Cinnamon To Your Drinks

Cinnamon is another spice commonly found in cold-weather dishes, and that’s not just for flavor. In the 2018 International Journal of Hypothermia, researchers claimed that cinnamon’s thermogenic properties raised peoples’ body temperature in cold weather. Cinnamon raises the amount of carbon dioxide in the stomach, which can help you retain body heat.

Cup full of cinnamon sticks

Oddly enough, cinnamon has the exact opposite effect in warmer weather. In 2016, scientists reported that cinnamon reduced the body temperature of pigs by two degrees. The spice also alleviates gas during digestion, which supports stomach health.

Black Beans Are Both Healthy And Warming

Not only are black beans hot and filling, but they’re also a great source of iron and copper. According to Dietitian Keri Gans, these minerals will pump more oxygen into your blood. This enhances blood flow that helps your body regulate temperature faster.

Spoon dips into a black bean dish with cilantro

Half a cup of cooked black beans contains 7.6 grams of protein and 0.5 grams of fat. This is important because, according to a 2008 study in Metabolism, protein kickstarts thermogenesis far more than fat does. Protein-rich meals make your body three times hotter than fat-rich meals. If you want a toasty winter meal, cook some black bean soup.

Mussels–The Best Fish For Keeping You Toasty

Mussels are another high-protein, low-fat dish to keep you cozy in cold weather. Mussels also contain a high amount of iron that helps the body regulate temperature. In Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, researchers examined several studies involving iron and body temperature. They concluded that iron-deficient individuals struggle to regulate body temperature, especially when they’re cold.

A couple eat mussels at the Vintage Festival
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Mussels also provide long-chain fatty acids and omega-3s. Louise Sutton, a Dietitian at Leeds Metropolitan University, says that these acids regulate body temperature by maintaining cell health. That’s another excuse to enjoy mussels during the chilly months.

That’s Not A Fever; That’s Garlic

In the past, some people have used garlic to fake fevers and get out of school. That’s because garlic naturally raises your body temperature. Research in the International Journal of Hypothermia found that eating garlic delays the onset of hypothermia. In a 2011 study in the Journal of Nutrition, mice treated with garlic had significantly higher body temperatures.

Bulbs of garlic on a chopping board
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Researchers believe that garlic’s heat-producing effects come from burning fat. These thermogenic properties are why eating onions and garlic together can warm you up. Throw both vegetables into a stew or soup when you’re feeling cold.

Potatoes Work Better Than Pasta

While high-protein foods contribute to thermogenesis, high-carb foods also produce that effect. Like whole wheat, potatoes are considered a healthy starch since they’re made of complex carbohydrates that take a long time to digest. A recent study suggests that potatoes warm your body more than pasta does.

Person cooks potatoes on a stove

During a 2019 study in Nutrients, scientists compared the body’s effect from salmon with pasta to salmon with mashed potatoes. They discovered that salmon with mashed potatoes warmed the body’s temperature 40% higher than salmon with pasta. No wonder mashed potatoes appear on the tables of so many autumn and winter meals.

Why You Should Eat Eggs During Cold Months

As a superfood, eggs offer plenty of protein and calcium in a single yolk. They also raise our core temperature with their high iron content. “Eggs have a tendency to produce heat in our body,” says Nutritionist and Dietitian Mehar Rajput. Some people don’t eat eggs in the summer because of this effect.

Child holding up eggs in front of her eyes

In colder weather, you may want to cook some eggs to keep your body warm. Mehar recommends eating only two at a time since more can lead to stomach discomfort in some people.

Sesame Seeds Burn Fat

Studies have mentioned that sesame seeds also increase your body heat through thermogenesis. The 2011 Journal of Radiation Research and Applied Sciences explains that sesame seeds activate thermogenesis by oxidizing fatty acids. This process burns fat, which releases energy that manifests as heat in your body.

A participant sprinkles sesame seeds on a challah during the Mega Challah Bake
Adam Berry/Getty Images
Adam Berry/Getty Images

A 2018 study provided evidence that sesame seeds raise the body temperature of rats. In particular, black sesame seeds burned fat, which prevented weight gain and increased core temperature in mice. You can add sesame seeds to any meat dish, salad dressing, stir-fry, or flavored rice.

How Chocolate Gives You A Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

If you want another reason to eat more chocolate, here’s one: a 2018 scientific review in Nutrients asserted that cocoa powder induces non-shivering thermogenesis. The phrase “non-shivering” means that the body produces heat without triggering shivering.

A young woman prepares to eat a chocolate decorated with a cherry blossom motif
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

In 2017, a study in Frontiers in Immunology reported that cocoa and dark chocolate increase blood flow in the body. They also improve cognitive function that helps you feel relaxed and happy. While chocolate may not warm you as well as green tea, it still heats your body enough to burn fat. Enjoy chocolate with a cocoa level of at least 75% to reap these benefits.