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Good carbohydrates for winter eating

The days are notably shorter and the weather has been bitterly cold. At this time of year, our bodies start to crave more carbohydrate and sugar rich foods. But, why does this happen and what sorts of carbohydrates should we be eating?


Studies have shown that in the winter months most people consume between 90 and 250 extra calories a-day, compared to that of the summer months. Typically, we tend to crave more carbohydrate and sugar rich foods. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It makes us feel warm. The meals and snacks we tend to go for in winter are usually cooked and rich in sugars and carbohydrates. Eating these foods makes us feel warmer and triggers an instinctive reaction to consume more - owing back to the days when food was more scarce in winter.

  2. Lack of sunlight. Melatonin is a hormone made by the body and associated with sleep. An increased melatonin production is triggered by shorter days and the fewer sunlight hours. Higher levels of melatonin in winter months may cause you to feel more sluggish or tired during the day. When paired with the cold temperatures, this is something that makes you reach for energy rich foods.

  3. Lack of mood boosting hormones. Research suggests that decreased exposure to sunlight lowers levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin causing changes in mood and sense of well-being. Eating carbohydrates encourages the production of serotonin, it’s natural to find yourself reaching for starchy or sugary foods for a quick mood boost.

Now we know the causes, here are few ideas to help you make better food choices:

  1. Slow release carbohydrates. Pick carb-rich foods that are high in fibre and will not cause a sudden rise in blood glucose, such as: beans, peas, vegetables, barley, oats, quinoa and other whole grains. These foods have a slow, gradual impact on glucose levels, which, when coupled with fibre, keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

  2. Choose soups or stews. A bowel of soup or stew will not only warm you up but it is also super filling. Look for ways to add in extra vegetables, beans or other proteins.

  3. Reach for the teas. Drinking enough water is easy to overlook when it’s cold outside, but your body still needs its daily hydration. Not staying hydrated can make you feel hungry when you may not really and can lower your energy levels. Water and fluids do not have to be cold to count. A warm beverage with no added sugar (like a hot fruit tea) is an easy way to warm-up and hydrate.



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