It may not be the only cause of weight gain but eating too much at mealtime is a contributor to weight gain. How many times have you eaten a meal and gone back for seconds because you still felt hungry, or at least you thought you were still hungry? If only you could feel satisfied eating less food. As you might know, certain types of foods are better at satisfying hunger. Let’s look at factors that impact how effectively a food keeps you full and satisfied.
Macronutrients are the energy supplying components of a meal. They include protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body doesn’t absorb. As such, it doesn’t supply a significant source of calories. The macronutrient composition of the foods you eat is a major contributor to how filling a particular food is.
Be aware that satiation and satiety are similar but not the same thing. Satiation is how full a food makes you feel WHILE you’re eating it. Satiety is how full you feel AFTER eating a particular food. Satiation means a food fills you up quickly as you eat while satiety means that food keeps you full for hours after you munching on it. So, if a food has a high satiation value, you’re likely to eat less at that meal. If it’s high on the satiety scale, you may not eat less at the meal but you’ll likely eat less at the next meal or later in the day.
So, how does each macronutrient rank in terms of satiation and satiety? Fiber as a dietary component scores high on the satiation scale. It fills you up quickly while you’re eating it but you might feel hungry an hour later. In contrast, fat has a high satiety value, meaning a high-fat meal suppresses your appetite for longer after a meal but doesn’t necessarily turn your appetite off while you’re eating it. Carbohydrates don’t rank particularly high on either the satiation OR the satiety scale. The clear winner on both counts is protein. Protein is both satiating while you’re eating it and maintains satiety for hours afterward.
What can you draw from this? Adding more protein to meals is one of the best ways to feel satisfied with less – while you’re eating and afterward. Moderate amounts of fiber and fat complement protein as well as fiber reduces appetite during a meal and fat keeps you full afterward. The least effective at subduing appetite is carbohydrates – and that’s particularly true of high-glycemic carbohydrates and refined carbs.
How Many Food Choices You Have
Having more food options to choose could make you eat more. There’s a proven concept called sensory specific satiety and the concept is simple. If you eat a single food, say a plate of broccoli, you will become satiated faster than if you devour a plate with several foods on it. This explains why people overeat at buffets. When you become satiated of one food, there are umpteen more to choose from. How many times have you eaten a meal and felt like you couldn’t eat another bite? Then out comes dessert and it’s cheesecake. Suddenly, you no longer feel so full.
While it’s good to eat a variety of nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods, like vegetables due to their high nutrient content, an assortment of carby foods is more likely to be stored as body fat. So, put the principle of sensory-specific satiety to work for you. If you have a lot of items on your plate, make sure they’re healthy, low-calorie choices like vegetables.
Some research suggests that the micronutrient content of a food affects how satiating it is. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals you need in small quantities. How might micronutrients impact satiety and satiation? The hypothesis is that foods high in micronutrients affect the synthesis of proteins and brain chemicals that influences appetite and how much you eat.
The micronutrient content of a foods affects satiety has been shown in animal studies but there’s not enough research in humans to say whether it also applies all species Yet, it’s a good idea to choose foods rich in micronutrients, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains for overall health. These foods are better for you and supply the micronutrients, like selenium, iodine, zinc, and magnesium, that a substantial portion of the population doesn’t get enough of.
Texture of Food
Research shows that foods with thicker and more creamy textures tend to be more satiating. Based on this premise, avoid drinking your calories. Doing so you won’t give you the same sense of fullness. A smoothie may be more satiating than milk or juice but solid food, in most cases, is the most satisfying. Plus, people don’t compensate by eating less when they consume liquid calories. Sensory-specific satiety is at play with food texture too. Research shows that people will eat their fill of a food with one texture but when you introduce the same food with a different texture, they eat more.
The flavor of what’s on your plate may also affect how much you eat and how quickly you feel full. Foods that taste delicious encourage overeating more than foods that don’t appeal to your taste buds. Adding spice or heat, like cayenne pepper, also helps curb overeating. Based on the principle of sensory-specific satiety, limiting the number of flavors you place on your plate helps restrain how much you eat. A 2011 study carried out by Purdue University found that people felt fuller after a meal containing spicy foods, including hot peppers, and consumed less fat afterward. Plus, spicy foods, based on studies, may give your metabolism a subtle boost. If that’s not enough, one study showed a link between eating spicy foods and longevity.
The Bottom Line
Now you know a few characteristics that make foods satiating. You also know that limiting the number, flavor, and textures of food you place on your plate may help you eat less. However, let’s not oversimplify things. Eating is also a psychosocial activity, one we do for enjoyment and out of boredom. So, even if a food is satiating, we can override satiety signals and eat anyway. Emotional eating is a problem for many people. However, that’s a topic for another blog post.