As the temperature drops, don’t be tempted to warm your belly with rich macaroni and cheese and creamy soup. Instead, get that toasty feeling from superfoods: healthy eats that are loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, and immune-boosting powers that your body needs to power itself through cold weather.
Read on to find the best hot foods to eat on chilly days and a few healthy tidbits to prepare them for ultimate nutrition.
When it gets cooler, it’s the perfect time to break out the oatmeal. Oats are a whole grain, so you’ll get a dose of fiber and plant-based protein to stop hunger with just one bowl. Plus, oatmeal contains a powerful starch called beta-glucan. Research in Nutrition Reviews found that just 3 grams a day of the beta-glucan in oats may reduce your bad cholesterol levels by 5 to 10%, whether they start out normal or high. You can get extra nutrition if you choose the right toppings too.
Curling up with a cup of hot cocoa is one way to feel snug—just nix the sugary powdered mix with marshmallow bits. “When I make it, I like to melt two squares of dark chocolate and stir it into regular or almond milk,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health’s contributing nutrition editor. Adding a little dark chocolate to your diet is a great health booster too. The sweet contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant thought to reduce the damage caused by free radicals, potential instigators of cancer and cardiovascular disease
Black bean soup
There’s nothing like a soup with cumin and chili pepper to heat you up when things get cold. The nutrition star of this dish, though, is the beans. Black beans are a good source of iron and copper. So sipping on this soup will help your muscles use more oxygen and boost your immune system, Gans says. A typical serving of soup would include nearly a cup of black beans, which provides 15 grams each of protein and fiber. Unlike animal protein sources, black beans contain almost no saturated fat.
Eating these mini cabbages may just help you fight a cold this fall. In addition to being packed with fiber and cancer-fighting phytonutrients, Brussels sprouts run high in vitamin C at 74.8 milligrams a cup. It won’t prevent the sniffles completely, but vitamin C has been shown to reduce the length of cold symptoms. Though the bitter taste of Brussels sprouts tends to scare some people away, heating them up can make a huge difference in flavor.
If you’re lacking vitamin A, the nutrient critical for promoting vision, a dose of pumpkin will do you good, Gans says. Most adult women should be getting 700 micrograms a day, according to the National Institutes of Health. In a serving of soup, you would use a third to a half cup of pumpkin puree, Gans says. So you could be getting more than a day’s worth of this vitamin in most recipes. Be mindful of a recipe with cream, though, if you’re looking to cut back on calories. Pumpkin also has antioxidant properties thanks to beta-carotene
The peppers in your stew contain a compound called capsaicin, which gives them their spicy kick. It’s also thought to boost metabolism and fight the buildup of fat. When paired with a high-fat diet, capsaicin was found to decrease body weight by 8%, according to an animal study conducted by Korean researchers. No matter the variety, the beans in chili also pack protein to help you build muscle. That’s not all. Tomato paste is rich in lycopene, and the onions provide unique antioxidants
There’s a way to enjoy this creamy fruit when it’s chilly. “Oven roasting avocado makes it even creamier,” Sass says. “Chop it up warm and put on top of another vegetable.” Bonus: about half of the fat of avocado comes from monounsaturated fat, which helps lower your bad cholesterol levels and provide nutrients for cells to function, according to the American Heart Association. They might also help you stay full.