Posted by Team Jigsaw on January 27, 2015
The fall and winter seasons bring decreasing hours of daylight and shorter days. During this time, many people cant resist the urge to dig into their favorite carbohydrate-rich holiday foods like loaded mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and marshmallows, turkey stuffing, and holiday cookies. It may be reassuring to know that there is a biological reason for the tendency to overeat these foods.
Natural sunlight converts to vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is called the hormone of sunlight because it naturally boosts serotonin levels. Adequate serotonin is required for a healthy moodwhich may be why spring offers such a refreshing, happy feeling for most people.
When the body is low in vitamin D due to the decreased sunlight of fall and winter, serotonin levels drop. Low serotonin levels lead to carbohydrate cravings, because the body is seeking other ways to increase serotonin, and one way is through diet.
There are essentially two ways in which tryptophan plays a role in winter food cravings.
When blood sugar levels drop, the body then craves more simple carbs to increase insulin, and facilitate tryptophan absorption by the brain. Hence, the vicious winter carb addiction begins. If left unchecked, the extreme blood sugar highs and lows from eating simple carbs can lead to insulin resistance, a dysfunction of the bodys cells to accept insulin which is essential for converting glucose into energy.
Interestingly, protein blocks serotonin production. So in order to alleviate the mood swings that come with eating simple carbs, here is a valuable tip: always eat protein with carbs. That's why eating cereal and milk, or cheese and crackers has a mood-balancing effect.
Another great suggestion is to eat small portions of seasonal goodies after protein-containing meals or snacks. If you eat sweets on an empty stomach, you'll experience the blood-sugar highs and lows that cause an energy rush -- followed by a crash and burn feeling -- that further triggers the addiction for more sweets and simple carbs. 1
Always eat protein with carbohydrates, or eat protein shortly before you eat carbs. This will help regulate your blood sugar levels and even out your mood swings. Healthy suggestions include tuna on sprouted, whole-grain bread, rice and beans, or turkey and plain sweet potatoes.