Why we love carbs on cold days

Why we love carbs on cold days

Do you love the idea of pasta, potatoes, breads, and other carbohydrates in winter? Do cold days increase your cravings? There are several theories behind carbohydrate addiction.


Almost 25 years ago revealed a link between drops in serotonin production and carbohydrate cravings in some individuals. A pair of researchers working on the topic determined that individuals with seasonal affective disorder – the winter blues – may be more likely to crave carbohydrates. When they eat those delicious carbs, their mood improves and serotonin levels increase. Think of it as human hibernation; like animals stocking up on fatty foods before a long winter nap, people with this condition often consume 800 or more calories above the baseline caloric consumption of the population.


There is some debate as to what comes first, the drop in serotonin or the carbohydrate craving. Studies show that women who feel down will often reach for a carb-heavy drink to help them cheer up, instead of a protein-based one. Researchers have termed these women to be self-medicating, since the carbohydrates help boost mood. Like taking a pain reliever for a headache, it takes about 20 minutes for carbohydrates to help improve a low mood.


Not everyone who craves carbs is feeling low, though. If you routinely crave carbohydrates between 3 and 5pm, consider yourself perfectly normal. A good portion of the population follows this pattern. The mood boost helps many of us deal with the frustrations of daily life, albeit subconsciously.


If you have routine carb cravings that are extreme, and you would go to great lengths to satisfy those cravings, see a nutritionist. Especially if you are on a diet. Many dieters inadvertently consume too few carbohydrates, and their bodies crave what they need. On the other hand, if you experience extreme lows in your mood that accompany your cravings, it might be time to see your doctor. You may be dealing with depression.

For most individuals, a carbohydrate craving is a perfectly normal event. Nature’s mood booster, serotonin, is activated by our carb consumption. To keep from overdoing it, eat a small amount of carbs and wait 20-25 minutes for it to kick in. If the craving goes away, great. You enjoyed a small treat and your mood is better as a result. If not, maybe its time to bake another loaf of bread. A larger helping might be just what the doctor ordered.


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