Why do we prefer warmer, cooked foods in Winter?
Your body is expending more energy on keeping you warm. So it’s easier for your body if you consume warm or warming foods. It’s less energy your body has to spend on warming food up or breaking it down.
This is why you often eat more kilojoules over the colder months too – your body is using more kilojoules to keep you warm. Perhaps too, this may be a hangover from earlier times when food was naturally scarce in the winter.
Ok, so that wasn’t me telling you its ok to go down an extra large portion of hot chips. 🙂 It’s important to make most of the things you eat nutrient dense and health enhancing; especially when you spend more time indoors, and around food in Winter time. Mindless snacking anyone?
Your hormones change with the seasons too
Seasonal changes in neurotransmitter hormones like serotonin and melatonin can also see you reaching for the processed (refined) carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates are rich in tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, your brain and body subconsciously push you to find sugary, refined carbohydrate and starchy foods for a quick mood boost.
say goodbye to cravings
Satisfying or fulfilling your body’s urge for nutrient dense warming foods can help reduce cravings for refined carbohydrate or sugary foods. When you eat meals that are balanced in the macronutrients of protein, fat and (whole food, or slow) carbohydrates, your blood glucose level is less likely to go on a rollercoaster ride of spiking high and dorpping low in the minutes and hours following your meal. (Lets leave the rollercoastering to oestrogen, thanks!)
Protein and fat slow the absorption of glucose (carbohydrates are broken down in to glucose for use in the bdy as energy). This means that there isn’t a giant burst of energy into the blood stream at once, that outstrips your capacity to use it. High blood glucose levels are inflammatory, and can cause damage to your arteries and kidneys. As well as that, high (and low) blood glucose levels can leave you feeling foggy, agitated, sweaty and finding it hard to concentrate. If you’d like to read more about how different foods impact your blood glucose levels and cravings, check out my blog on afternoon energy slumps.
It’s also hard to overeat when your meal has sufficient protein and fat. Your body has hormones that signal to your brain when you’ve had enough fat and protein. There isn’t this feedback for carbohydrates. So that’s why you can easily sit and eat a whole bag of Doritos, snakes or minties. (And then have that moment when you’re on the last one, there’s no one else around, but surely you can’t have eaten the whole bag?!). But you probably couldn’t munch your way through a whole BBQ chook, multiple avocados or a pat of butter. Well, maybe you could, but you’d feel pretty darn sick.
Enter SPICY PUMPKIN SOUP
Alrighty, so you now know that your body likes warm foods and drinks in Winter. You also know that because you can have more melatonin and less serotonin, you may feel more sluggish and have more carb cravings in Winter. Or it could just be that you’re home more and around the kitchen and food more! (Prime example of all these factors: is there anyone who didn’t start baking more in lock down?!)
So you need an easy, budget-friendly, but nourishing meal to make that helps satisfy your body’s desires, boosts your gut health and helps balance your hormones? Ta-da, enter spicy pumpkin soup! It is one of my go-to soups. Even more so since my 13 year old has learnt how to make it and loves it!
Pumpkins are widely available in Autumn, but the supply is good right through Winter, I find. It’s relatively cheap and freezes well. I have a love-hate relationship with pumpkin. I love to eat it, but I hate peeling it. Anyone else feel like that? Or am I really just a big ole lazy bones cook?! (Well, yes I think I am, but I like to think of it as being efficient with my time!)
jam-packed with nourishment
What I like about soup is that you can often hide all sorts of goodness in there, blend it up and no one knows any different. This recipe is no different. There’s lots of vegetables (hello fibre and anti-oxidants for hormonal health!), and I make it on a base of bone broth (gut health = hormonal health!). Often I make my own broth, but when I don’t, I always add a bone broth concentrate paste like Best of the Bone. Rich in collagen, fat and protein it’s a super food for your gut, muscles, skin and joints. And they taste great!
Increase the fat, fibre, and nutrients by sprinkling your soup with seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, hemp or sesame. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over your serve to go full Mediterranean style, while enhancing the flavour and healthy fats.
Don’t forget a good quality salt and pepper to finish it off. Delicious.
Here’s some other warming meals to try
If you haven’t already tried it, you might like my whole chicken and vegetable soup, or easy beef stew recipes. They make a lot, so you can make once and eat at least one more time. The beef stew is very flexible and you can alter the flavours and the protein depending on what you have. Once you’ve got the hang of the basic recipe you can experiment while knowing you’re eating a nourishing, nutrient dense meal each time!
Need some help to get back on track?
Sick of feeling tired, sluggish and irritated? Maybe you’ve noticed some niggly pain or symptom that you’d like to get rid of? Or maybe, you think that the road to menopause doesn’t have to be paved with annoying symptoms and feeling like sh*t all the time. If that’s you, then I’d love to talk to you about how naturopathy and I can help you stop feeling this way, and start feeling more like you used to. You know – happy, energetic, and patient with your family! Get started by booking a free 15-minute discovery call with me.
Sarah’s spicy pumpkin soup
- 2.5kg pumpkin, peeled, chopped roughly into 3cm cubes
- 2.5L chicken broth/stock or water + 10 tsp broth paste
- Optional: small Ham hock (ask your butcher to cut it into smaller pieces)
- 400g cauliflower
- 1 leek (green part too) or 2 onions sliced finely
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 turnip
- 1 swede
- 1-2 zucchini
- 4-6 stalks celery (including leaves), washed and sliced
- 100g ginger washed, peeled and rouchly chopped
- 2cm piece of turmeric (or 2 tbsp powder) washed and chopped roughly
- Optional: 2-4 green chillis (seeds in)
- Extra virgin olive oil and ghee
- To serve: pumpkin, sunflower, or hemp seeds; parsley, baby spinach or kale, sliced finely; salt + pepper
- Place some ghee/butter and olive oil in a large stock pot on stove.
- When hot, add leek/onion and celery and sautee until soft.
- Add garlic, carrots, ginger and turmeric and cook for a minute or two. Careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add the rest of the vegetables, ham hock or bacon bones to the pot and cover with the stock/broth or water + broth paste.
- Bring to a simmer, then cook gently for about 40 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and ham is coming off the bone.
- Carefully remove the ham hock or bacon bones from the pot to a plate.
- When the soup is cool enough, blend with a stick blender or in a blender/Thermomix if you want the soup smooth.
- Take the meat off the hock, and add back to the soup or put in bowls for serving.
- Warm soup and when ready, serve into bowls, on top of the spinach/kale.
- Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of seeds, parsley or coriander, and salt + pepper to taste. Enjoy.
- The remainder can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days, or frozen for 3-6 months.