This has been a brutal winter at Beekman Farm, and even if we had the thermostat set to 90 and every fireplace in the house roaring, I don’t think we could have fully combated the bone chilling temperatures outside.

Fortunately, we know a few tricks (other than hot chocolate and whiskey) that can help keep the blood from freezing.

If you’ve ever wondered why the cuisine in hot climates is often distinguished by a high degree of spiciness, the answer is diet-induced thermogenesis–the generation of body heat that occurs from eating. Through normal digestion, absorption, and metabolization of food, the body converts food calories to heat. Burning calories can literally warm you up.

In hot weather, the increase in body temperature makes you feel cooler by decreasing the temperature difference between you and the air around you, as well as by inducing the body to sweat, which cools the body when the perspiration evaporates. In cold weather, though, the increase in body temperature can make you feel plain old warm and cozy.

Here are five foods that we use to turn up the heat without ever touching the thermostat.

Hot Peppers

Capsaicin, the substance that gives hot peppers their pungent flavor (and also used in pepper sprays and for pain relief) increases thermogenesis. Essentially, hot, spicy foods are stimulants which raise the body temperature by stimulating the circulation.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is harvested from unripe berries of the vine Piper nigrum (white pepper is extracted from the ripe berries, you can impress your foodie friends at dinner parties with that one). Black pepper contains piperine, a substance that has been shown to influence thermogenesis through stimulating the nervous system.


Widely used as an herbal remedy for many maladies–including those involving the digestive tract, headaches and nausea–the pungent principles of ginger (gingerols and shogaols) also have thermogenic properties.

Green Tea

Green tea has two components, caffeine and catechins, that have been shown to produce thermogensis. Green tea containing caffeine significantly increased thermogenesis by 28 percent to 77 percent. In Asia, green tea is a common recipe ingredient

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is comprised of mostly medium-chain fatty acids, which, when eaten, have been shown to increase thermogenesis. On the down side, one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fat.

by Dr. Brent

Reader Comments

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Wonderful post Brent; your points are all such a good reminder that if we turn our attentions to the Eastern world/Asian cultures that all of the items you list and comment on are essential staples in the Asian diet in their daily consumption.

As a side note, I have only recently discovered your show and have come to enjoy it very much as well as relate to the hectic life of attempting to start a business and maintaining a steady income through 9-5 work.

I look forward to watching more.

Dr. Brent

Hi, Michelle

How can you not look to the wisdom of ancient cultures? They've had so many years to figure things out! Good luck with growing your business


Brent, I love the combination of scientific and practical info… thank you! I'll try to incorporate more peppers. Maybe Josh could come up with a spicy stew?


Great info! I use coconut oil as the only thing i moisture my face, body and hair with. And i have NO wrinkles! So stay warm thru food and hot thru coconut oil 🙂


Wait… there's something *other* than hot chocolate and whiskey?!? 🙂 Cuddling also helps you stay warm!