Chando Chacho: ECCT’s Healthy, Spicy Winter Warmer Foods

*Image: boston.com

by Eden Chiuslekuda

Okay so here is the deal.  We have already had numerous posts about how carrying excessive weight increases one’s risk of cancer and various degenerative diseases, like heart disease.  Most of us also know that winter is a time when one easily gains a few pounds – our “winter weight” as it is commonly called.

When we are younger, it is relatively easy for most people to shed those pounds when the warmer weather comes around.  However, for others, even at a young age, their metabolism and daily habits make it a challenge for them to lose any pounds that they gain.  Furthermore,  for most of us, the older we get, the harder it becomes to lose weight, and that mere 2 kg or so each winter quickly adds up to 20 or even 40 kg over a decade, and has us giving ourselves the “how did I get to this??” head shake in the mirror.

The body’s instinct in winter is to gain pounds so that you can stay warm and have enough fat stores for what used to be leaner times (that is – the winter time.)  If you keep yourself warm, well fed and mobile, you can naturally trick your body into “acting right” so you can side step its tendency to want to fatten up on you.

So here are a few basic and easy tips to help you reduce your cravings for dense and heavy foods that cause us to gain those pounds in the first place.

Spice It Up

*Image: saraketha.com

*Image: saraketha.com

And I do mean literally.  Hot, spicy dishes are inherently warming and cause your blood vessels to dilate, allowing blood to flow closer to the skin.  In addition to lowering your risk of high blood pressure, most hot spices also have other health benefits like being full of antioxidants and known cancer fighters.  PS – all of the spices mentioned below are proven aphrodisiacs for both sexes, so this may spice up your love life too.  (Insert link to Daft Punk’s new breakout hit here LOL.)

The spices of note most easily available in Zimbabwe are….

Chili peppers – piri piri

This is an awesome addition to any kind of dish of traditional greens (muriwo.)  In fact one of the most popular dishes I make for my American friends is spicy greens on a bed of sweet potatoes.  Who knew?  So whether you buy an Indian sambal and put it on the side of every meal you make or buy, or intentionally spice up your vegetarian or meat dishes, you should find yourself feeling warmer.  One of the most popular culinary trends in the US is the current Mayan Chocolate craze.  The ancient Aztecs of what is now present day Mexico, used to eat chocolate spiced with cayenne.  This has been reintroduced as a gourmet treat in modern day chocolate culture and is actually quite delicious.  So try adding a dash of cayenne pepper or red chili pepper to your Milo or hot chocolate made from straight cocoa powder (the healthier version) and give yourself a little boost of energy and warmth.

Cinnamon

*Image: 4.bp.blogspot.com

*Image: 4.bp.blogspot.com

This sweet spice also lowers blood sugar so is great for diabetics and pre-diabetics too.  Add a little to dishes like porridge, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, tea (think Indian chai tea) and sprinkle on raw sliced apples, bananas or pears. It is also great in baked goods, on pumpkin or butternut squash.  Even try a little in a stew of beans.  It pairs well with cardamom – another warming spice of hot-cross buns fame (remember them) and even black pepper (when added to tea.)

Ginger

*Image: blogs.rsc.org

*Image: blogs.rsc.org

Yup, good old tsangamidzi never fails to disappoint as a general cure for whatever ails you.  In addition to being suitable to add to fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices it is great in almost any savoury or sweet dish out there.  Ordinarily fresh juices are very cooling, but when you add an inch or two of fresh ginger root or one or two teaspoons of the dried powder – you will feel the heat in your chest.  Ginger tea boiled from the powder or slices of the fresh root and sweetened with sugar or honey is an excellent decongestant if you catch a cold, tummy soother for digestive issues and can also help with morning sickness and menstrual cramps.  It is suitable for all ages.  (Ps children and adults love apple juice warmed with a little cinnamon, which turns it into a mild non-alcoholic apple cider.)

Curry

*Image: bbcgoodfood.com

*Image: bbcgoodfood.com

Thanks to our fellow citizens of Indian descent, great curry is easily accessible in Zimbabwe.  Instead of rushing to the heavier meat dishes, try enjoying the vegetable options when dining out, or make it on your own at home. A dish of cauliflower and carrots in a sauce of curry, onions and tomatoes, served with rice or sadza is a warming, hearty and healthy meal.  Curry is actually a mix of several warming spices – usually ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper and possibly others.

Turmeric is especially known for being a cancer fighter, so if you wanted to, you can buy that separately and add a little extra to your curry for a little more cancer fighting power.

*We hope this spicy little post gives you some ideas.  This is part 1 of a three part series.  In the second post we shall discuss little dietary changes that could make a big difference in the way you navigate your winter eating habits.  Have a great week and try to stay warm!

*View our website by clicking here.

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