By Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, M.D.
As autumn unfolds, you may notice a few changes brought on by the cooler weather, most notably your appetite.
Patients often ask why their appetite increases in the fall and what they can do to maintain the leaner body they’ve enjoyed all summer.
First, let’s look at why you find yourself hungrier as the temperature falls.
There are several reasons, but the primary cause is body temperature regulation. In cooler weather, your body needs to burn more calories to maintain body temperature. To protect your health and keep you warm, the system that controls appetite signals you to eat more.
You may also notice a shift in the food that appeals to you; suddenly you crave warmer, heartier foods like soups and stews. This is all nature’s way of strengthening your immune system and preparing you for winter.
Another question I’m often asked: Does dietary fat cause weight gain?
The logic behind this question is that the increased calories will add body fat. Not so. The best way to understand this is to look at the role that the hormone insulin plays in fat accumulation.
Insulin is produced when we eat complex or simple sugars. Its main function is to chaperone sugar into our cells to be used for energy. When our cells are getting enough energy from sugar, insulin will signal the leftover sugar to be stored as fat, so it can be used as needed in the future if food is sparse.
Contrary to carbs, dietary fat doesn’t spike insulin and therefore doesn’t get stored as body fat. Instead, it provides a steady energy source, and is excellent for brain health and immunity.
The best way to stay healthy and robust during the cold weather months is to follow nature’s instructions and eat seasonally.
In the farmer’s market, fragile leafy greens give way to heartier varieties and beautiful winter squash like kabocha and pumpkin. Pairing them with organic protein and healthy fats will satisfy your autumn appetite, increase your vigor and help you maintain a leaner, stronger body.