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3 reasons why you’re more hungry and crave comfort food when it gets colder


As we move through autumn, parts of Australia are starting to see cooler weather. For some of us, that can mean an increasing sense of hunger and cravings for “comfort foods” like pasta, stews, and ramen.

But what happens in our body?

3 things change when it gets cold

1. Our body retains heat

It sends this energy it retains to our internal organs so that they can maintain their temperature and function properly. The body can also perform heat-generating activities (such as shivering), which uses energy. The body will then look for extra energy through calories from eating food.

2. Our body warms up while eating

When we eat, the body needs energy to digest, absorb and metabolize the nutrients. This process requires the use of energy, which generates heat in the body, leading to an increase in body temperature that “diet-induced thermogenesis”.

However, the amount of energy used to keep us warm is considerable modest.

3. Some people experience a drop in the neurotransmitter serotonin

This is partly because the rate at which our bodies produce serotonin is related sunlightwhich is lower in winter.

Serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep, among other things. When serotonin levels are low, this can lead to increased hunger and less satiety (the feeling that you have eaten enough), making us feel hungrier and less full after meals.

Shepherds pie – vegetarian or meat-based – might be just what you’re looking for.

Why we love comfort food in winter

Many of us struggle to eat salad in the winter and crave mom’s chicken soup or slow-cooked, brothy ramen.

Research shows that our brains detect the cold weather and look for warmth food. Hot food can provide a feeling of comfort and coziness, which is especially appealing during the colder months when we spend more time indoors.

Read more: ​​​​The psychology of comfort food – why we look to carbs for comfort

Comfort food can mean something different to everyone. They are foods that we reach for in times of stress, nostalgia, discomfort (such as feeling cold) or emotional turmoil. For most of us, the foods we tend to overindulge in are rich and high in carbohydrates.

A drop in serotonin has also been shown to stimulate the urge to eat more carbohydrate rich foods such as gnocchi, pasta, ragout, mashed potatoes.

What happens to those extra calories?

If you use more energy in cooler weather, some of it will be used to keep you warm. Besides keeping us warm, extra calories we consume are stored.

While most people today have year-round access to food, research shows that our bodies may still have some instincts related to storing energy for the cooler months when food was harder to come by.

This behavior can also be caused by biological factors, such as changes in hormone levels that regulate appetite and metabolism.

Read more: Winter weight gain isn’t inevitable unless you decide you want it to

A fundamental principle of nutrition and metabolism is that the balance between the energy content of the food eaten and the energy expended to sustain life and perform physical work affects the body. weight. This means that excess energy that we don’t use gets stored – usually as fat.

Using mathematical models, researchers have predicted weight gain is more likely when food is harder to find. Storing fat is insurance against the risk of not finding food, which probably happened in winter for pre-industrial people.

hands rock a bowl of pumpkin soup
Winter is coming… so it’s soup time.

It doesn’t have to be unhealthy

Regardless of your cravings during the colder months, it’s important to remember your own personal health and wellness goals.

If you’re concerned about excessive energy intake, a change of season is a good time to rethink healthy food choices. Including lots of whole fresh veggies is key: think soups, curries, stews, and so on.

Including proteins (such as meat, fish, eggs, legumes) ensures a longer feeling of fullness.

Read more: A nice hot bowl of porridge: 3 ways plus a pot history

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