Why do we crave more carbs in winter?
Why is it that we crave more carbohydrates such as hearty bowls of pasta, chocolate and more stodgy foods in winter? Is it the cold dark nights that have us reaching for something filling or sweet or is there something else going on biologically?
Foods higher in carbohydrates make us feel good for a reason – they boost our feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, help increase energy and improve overall mood. Lower levels of serotonin can also increase appetite and so it is no wonder that in the colder, darker months people want to do all they can to increase this happy hormone, often turning to unhealthier foods to get a quick fix!
There seems to be an ancestral mechanism in human and animals that triggers a desire for sugar going into autumn (when fruits are naturally ripe and high in sugar) as a way to encourage the consumption of food to see them through harsh winters. This evolutionary desire to seek out more carbohydrates in the autumn when they are in plentiful supply, can almost be seen as a signal from nature to prepare for the winter to come.
However, in today’s world there is an abundance of food all year round but has there been a change in food consumption habits?
The desire to eat more, often unhealthy foods in the winter can lead to cravings and create an unhealthy cycle of relying on food to boost mood and energy. This can then have impacts on blood sugar balance which will only perpetuate the cycle.
Healthy Comfort food
Instead of restricting carbohydrate intake completely, the focus should be on choosing the right types of carbohydrates. Foods to limit due to their detrimental effect on blood sugar would be refined carbohydrates like pasta, pastries, cakes and white bread. Instead, focus on wholesome balanced meals with plenty of protein, fibre and vegetables. Balancing your meals this way will help keep you fuller for longer. Meals such as homemade soups, chillies, stews and curries are great options.
Any Supplements that could help?
Vitamin D is such an important nutrient, especially in the winter months. Vitamin D actually activates Tryptophan which is converted into serotonin in the body.
Immune supportive supplements that contain beta glucans, Vitamin C and Zinc may also help keep colds and flu away.
Probiotics not only have immune supportive effects, they also can help support mood balance.
Carb cravings can often indicate blood sugar control issues. Nutrients such as Ceylon cinnamon and chromium can help support healthy blood glucose levels.
- Aim for eight hours of sleep every night
- Even in the colder months daylight exposure is still important not only for physical but for mental well being
- Exercise. People tend to want to move less in the winter months, but exercise is actually really great for mood and blood sugar support!
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