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How to Increase Cold Tolerance With Nutrients and Foods: Living Better in Cold Climates

Cold intolerance can be challenging when living in cold countries. Humans are physically not well-adapted to face the challenges of cold climates. We originally are a tropical species, which is why many of us cannot stand winters! While we cannot change our genes to grow fur, we can optimize our thermoregulation with nutrients to become at least a bit more tolerant to the freeze!

As a tropical species humans are not cold-native, and biologically, we do not cope well with cold temperatures and climates. The reason is, that we are naturally not well-equipped for colder climates, but rather for tropical climates. Thus, humans in temperate or colder areas live outside their natural habitat. Read more about this here.

But luckily you can boost your cold tolerance by optimizing your thermoregulation, by providing the nutrients that your body needs as a resource in its biochemical functions involved in thermoregulation. This can ameliorate cold sensitivity to some degree.

This article is not about foods like ginger and soups to comfort you during the cold season, but to strengthen and optimize your body’s “cold performance” with nutrition.

Nutrients needed for thermoregulation

You cannot change your genes to gain major cold adaptation, but you can get the best out of your thermoregulation. Overall health seems to influence how you feel in the cold, a finding which goes in line with the fact that people report a higher cold tolerance when seeking their best health.

To improve cold tolerance, we should address the nutrients involved in thermoregulation specifically, plus the ones that often are scarce in colder environments:

  • Iodine
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D and Sunlight
  • Nutrition from Tropical Fruits
  • Avoid Environmental Stressors

1. Iodine

Iodine-deficient people often report cold intolerance. This is not surprising because iodine intake is key to restoring under-active thyroid function, a major issue in ineffective thermoregulation and low cold tolerance. Unfortunately, the iodine shortage in food and the environment is widespread. Not to a degree of developing a goiter, but not enough for optimal function. This issue has intensified due to the increased use of natural non-iodized salts, like pink Himalayan salt or sea salt. There are better ways to go than iodized table salt, though: high-quality seaweed is a natural iodine source, where the halogen is organically bound. Make sure the iodine content on your kelp or other seaweeds is labeled on the product.

2. Selenium

Selenium is needed for the regulation of thyroid hormone activity. Selenium is a part of the enzymes – deiodinases – that regulate the activation of thyroid hormones. Thus selenium and iodine work together. If you live in selenium-poor areas, you can supplement selenium naturally by consuming 1-2 Brazil nuts, which typically contain enough selenium to meet your daily requirement. Make sure the selenium content is labeled on the package.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium is long known to play a crucial role in thermoregulation, including tolerance to heat and cold. Magnesium deficiency includes cold hands and feet that hardly warm up in warm blankets. Coral supplements are a natural way to get magnesium and calcium synergistically. Other bioavailable magnesium forms are magnesium malate or glycinate supplements.

4. Vitamin D and Sunlight

There is no evidence that Vitamin D is directly linked to thermoregulation, but it’s a major health player in areas poor in sunlight. Thus, whenever you can, expose yourself to the sun. However, the sun might not be intense enough during winter or at high latitudes for effective Vitamin D production, especially for darker skin types. A high-quality sun studio that provides UV light can be a solution for Vitamin D production. A Vitamin D3 supplement is the next best solution, as explained by Don Bennett, a well-respected, science-based raw diet and species-specific diet expert. Vitamin D3 supplements are best combined with Vitamin K2 and Magnesium, as they act synergistically. 

5. Nutrients from Tropical Fruits

Eat as many ripe tropical fruits as you can get. Tropical fruits are not only highly nutritious in general – they contain the “perfect” nutrient mix for us! Humans have originally evolved as specialized fruit-eaters in the tropics, which makes tropical fruits their number one species-appropriate food. Those fruits are powerful in terms of optimizing your health. During cold season you can integrate smoothies with bananas and frozen fruits (i.e. acai berry bowl) to your diet. Also, while living outside tropical or sub-tropical regions, air-imported fruits can add to a better dietary quality in general.

Luckily, nowadays we can access tropical fruits all years round, like bananas and mangoes. Lychees are in season in December and exported all around the world.

6. Avoid Environmental Stressors

Besides optimizing “thermo-nutrients” you can take additional measures to improve your winter experience: Imitate a tropical habitat to feel better and healthier during the winter, like visiting a spa and eat a fruit-rich diet. But also avoid harmful substances from modern life. For example, halogens like fluoride and bromide can displace iodine. But there are incountable synthetic compounds in our everyday life that we are exposed to, that can affect our overall health. Thus it is vital to stick to a natural approach in everything you do.

The idea of an “ancestral ecological niche reconstruction” is to imitate the (original) environmental conditions in which our ancestors have evolved – with the goal of optimizing the body’s functionality. This means to provide the body with species-appropriate nutrition and other environmental factors lacking in cold environments, but also protect it from newer artificial bioactive chemicals that the body just did not have time to adapt through more effective detoxification. And yes, toxic chemicals do have the power to be a “natural” selection force acting on humans when they influence survival and reproduction (which many are known to do).

Foods to Increase Thermoregulation

Functional foods contain loaded nutrients that can increase your cold tolerance:

  • Kelp and brown algae
  • Gras juice powder
  • Ripe tropical fruits
  • Brazil nuts
  • Colostrum and raw cheese from happy outdoor-living goats or cows.

In know, dairy has its bad rep, and certainly for a reason. However, hear me out, if you do live a colder area, raw high-quality cheese and yoghurt was used by cold-native people for better survival. Those foods contain nutrition that is hard to obtain outside the tropics and on a raw vegan or fruit diet, if not done correctly (read more about this here), especially the fat-soluble vitamins D, K2 and A. But also Vitamin B12, bioavailable calcium and sometimes iodine are in raw cheese. To be clear, I do not think that cheese is human species-appropriate food, but it certainly is a functional food, which can be used like a supplement, especially in cold climates, where doing a fruit diet successfully is a challenge.

We need to pay attention to the damaging and cruel dairy production industry and avoid those products at all costs. But we cannot completely ignore the knowledge of the cold-native peoples and the numerous healing stories of high-quality, raw dairy, like this beautiful testimony:

Fruit Diet Guide

For more information on getting the right nutrients and supplement, the human species-appropriate diet and health, also check out this free fruit-diet guide:

Go to How to do the Frugivore Diet


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  2. Makinen, T.M. (2010) “Different types of cold adaptation in humans,” Frontiers in Bioscience, S2(3), pp. 1047–1067. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2741/s117. (link)
  3. Zimmermann, M.B. and Boelaert, K. (2015) “Iodine deficiency and thyroid disorders,” The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 3(4), pp. 286–295. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/s2213-8587(14)70225-6. (link)
  4. Maushart, C.I. et al. (2019) “Resolution of hypothyroidism restores cold-induced thermogenesis in humans,” Thyroid, 29(4), pp. 493–501. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1089/thy.2018.0436. (link)
  5. Yeh, T.S., Hung, N.H. and Lin, T.C. (2014) “Analysis of iodine content in seaweed by GC-ECD and estimation of iodine intake,” Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 22(2), pp. 189–196. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfda.2014.01.014. (link)
  6. X. Hou, X. Yan, C. Chai, Chemical Species of Iodine in Some Seaweeds II. Iodine-Bound Biological Macromolecules. Journal of Radioanalytical Chemistry 245, pages 461–467 (2000) (link)
  7. Luongo, C., Dentice, M. and Salvatore, D. (2019) “Deiodinases and their intricate role in thyroid hormone homeostasis,” Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 15(8), pp. 479–488. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41574-019-0218-2. (link)
  8. Platner, W.S. and Hosko, M.J. (1953) “Mobility of serum magnesium in hypothermia,” American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content, 174(2), pp. 273–276. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1152/ajplegacy.1953.174.2.273. (link)
  9. D. Bennett, Health 101 – cancer prevention and Vitamin D. Available at: http://health101.org/art_cancer_vitamin_D.htm (Accessed: March 30, 2023). (link
  10. Author unknown, First-ever human population adaptation to toxic chemical, arsenic (2015) ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150304075422.htm (Accessed: March 30, 2023). (link)


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