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Eating More In Winter – Why Do We Do It?

Eating More In Winter – Why Do We Do It?

3 minute read time

With Christmas ahead, and autumn a mere memory, we’ve finally been left in winter’s icy hold. For many people, this means two things; the temptation to cosy up indoors where it’s warm, and a craving for comfort food. The salads of summer are long gone, and at this time of year people look towards filling foods such as stews, casseroles and root vegetables to stave off the dark and the cold. For those dieting, this can make the winter months perhaps the most difficult of the year, and the temptation to eat foods high in calories and carbs can prove too much to bear. But why is it that we eat more in the winter months? To help you understand, yorktest have put together some of the main reasons.

It’s a natural reaction…

Eating more during winter can be explained from an evolutionary perspective. When we’re cold, nowadays warming up is fairly easy; most houses and buildings have central heating systems, and warmth can be accessed by a simple flick of a switch. However, this hasn’t always been the case. Pre-central heating, getting out of the cold and accessing warmth was much harder, requiring manual processes and hard labour. The bodies’ craving for high calorie foods is a reaction to this need for warmth, with the aim to put on weight in order to counteract the cold. These days, we don’t need quite as much extra weight, but the cravings are still a natural reaction that we shouldn’t be worried about.

We’re cheering ourselves up…

Food cravings can be connected to another bodily reaction; the need to feel happy. For many people, the winter months can bring on what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. These people find it hard to cope with the darker nights and shorter days, suffering from low motivation and increased anxiety. The cause of S.A.D is usually attributed to the neurotransmitter serotonin which, in low levels, has been suggested as a contributor. However, eating high fat, high carb foods has been shown to increase the levels of serotonin in the body, causing temporary feelings of happiness. Omega-3 rich foods, such as oily fish, are good for boosting serotonin, as is dark chocolate in moderation, so these are a good choice to raise those happy feelings.

The weather is telling us to…

The temptation to eat filling, stodgy food could be rooted in the weather itself. Eating hearty root vegetables such as potato, parsnips, squashes and carrots during winter is simply a reflection of these vegetables being in season at this time of year, and thus more abundant. Whilst it is possible to get these foods all year round, this may be a hang on of an earlier time when eating habits were more dictated by seasonality. So, our bodies are geared to consume these root vegetables in winter, and leafy salad greens in summer, the times of year when these foods will first have been harvested and available for consumption.

There’s plenty to celebrate…

Eating more in winter can also be a result of the amount of festive occasions at this time of year. Winter festivals such as Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s Eve are times of celebration, where it’s natural to want to throw caution to the wind and eat a little more. If this is just a “one off” then there shouldn’t much cause for concern and after the rich and abundant foods of these festivities, many of us may feel the urge to “detox”, or certainly get our eating habits back on track. If you’re worrying about your diet this winter, just remember the reasons why you might eat differently this time of year. As with anything, the key is balance. Think you might have a food intolerance? yorktest’s Food&DrinkScan Programme could help you identify problem foods, so you can work towards optimising your diet.


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