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When temperatures drop many people notice that they crave fattier foods such as chocolate or cheese, and they might indulge more in junk food like chips, pastries, or pizzas. Obviously, eating this way will cause us to put on weight: according to some studies, we gain an average of one kilo during the winter months.
The truth is that fat is good for us and especially useful in winter. Contrary to what many believe, fat is necessary and people with a deficit of body fat face problems, especially in winter. They can suffer from fatigue, excessive colds, poor digestion, or constipation. If you want to know more about what a lack of body fat can cause you, click here.
María José Crispín, a nutritionist at Clínica Menorca, corroborates this idea that fats provide us with energy, and having fat reserves are what allow us to go for long periods of time without eating. This was surely inherited from our ancestors: when man was a hunter and gatherer, he spent the winter months without hardly eating anything. There are studies showing our ancestors stocking up their energy reserves before the cold winter months.
Fat is a natural thermal insulator
Fat helps us maintain an adequate body temperature. It’s like wearing an extra coat that we appreciate on cold days. These are the days when our body has to increase its energy expenditure to activate functions that generate body heat: “Adipocytes are cells that make up the fatty tissue and we have two types: white and brown adipocytes. White adipocytes are our calories reserves, of energy; if I go on a diet- this is where my body gets energy from. Brown adipocytes have droplets of fat inside them and are more intracellular. Their function is to regulate body temperature. The older we get, the fewer brown adipocytes we have,” explains the nutritionist.
Shorter days and fewer daylight hours are also partly to blame for craving more fat and heavier foods. During these dark months, our body increases its melatonin production to regulate sleep cycles, resulting in lower body temperature and the need for more fat to compensate.
Not all fats are created equal
Although fatty foods are more than recommended in winter, there are some fats that are best to avoid. Choose good fats, unsaturated fats- mainly from vegetables, seeds, and fish. Also, Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, flax seeds, nuts, and peanut butter -these fats generate internal heat so our body can function properly despite the external cold.
Avoid trans fats! Not sure what these are. Let me give you a clue: usually hidden in processed foods, such as frozen pizzas, salty snacks, industrial pastries, palm oil, margarine… the list goes on.
Be careful not to eat out of boredom
Even though you may be eating more fat and slightly larger portions in winter, don’t confuse this with emotional eating. This is a difficult habit to break so it’s best not to start.
Several factors come into play during the winter months: bad weather, less physical activity, more time at home, boredom– Learn how to detect the symptoms of emotional eating. If you want to know more, don’t miss this post.