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Foods to boost mood and fight winter weight gain

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Winter weight gain is common, with many people putting on weight over the Christmas holiday period and few managing to lose it over the winter months.

The lack of sunlight in the winter can also affect people's moods.

Here are some tips on picking foods to help boost winter moods and fight weight gain in the colder months.

Steady blood sugar

A stable blood sugar is essential to provide energy for your body’s cells. Eating at regular intervals and including carb-based foods at each meal are good ways to achieve this. We all know how irritable we can become when hungry, so keeping your blood sugar level stable will help provide brain fuel and benefit your mood too.

Opt for low GI carbohydrate foods that are absorbed slowly, such as wholegrains and porridge.

Sugary foods and white bread, pasta and rice are digested and absorbed quickly causing spikes in insulin production and a less stable blood sugar level.

Feel-good serotonin

Your mood is affected by many things, including serotonin, the feel-good chemical.

Carbohydrates are essential for delivering tryptophan, the amino acid that is converted into serotonin, to the brain.

Low carb high fat diets are popular ways to lose weight, but researchers from the University of Illinois in the US found that, after just 2 weeks, a very low carbohydrate diet increased fatigue and reduced the desire of overweight adults to exercise. But when low carb eating led to successful weight loss, this effect seemed to lessen.

Serotonin also fights winter weight gain because it also plays a role in us feeling full and reducing appetite.

Avoid stress-induced mood swings

When we're stressed we're less likely to make good food choices, and more likely to grab a ‘treat’ like a chocolate bar instead.

If you’re craving carbs, but need to control your weight, choose low-fat foods with carbohydrates such as a small packet of popcorn or a bowl of breakfast cereal and milk.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Some studies show that people who don’t eat much fatty fish rich in omega-3 are more likely to experience depression, and including omega-3 fats from oily fish may help to manage mild depression, but more research is needed.

Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, but canned versions have very little omega-3 fats due to the canning process.

Vitamin B12

Some research suggests that people who don't get enough vitamin B12 may be more likely to become depressed, but more research is needed. Good food sources of vitamin B12 include meat, fish and dairy foods. Vitamin B12 deficiency can sometimes become a problem as we age. If this happens you may become anaemic even though you eat vitamin B12 containing foods. A substance produced by the stomach (called ‘intrinsic factor’) is necessary for the vitamin to be absorbed into our body. For people who don’t make enough intrinsic factor, blood vitamin B12 levels are usually maintained by a small injection every 3 months.

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