Anyone who’s tried going on a diet knows that fighting food cravings is possibly the hardest part about losing body fat. An extreme low-calorie diet just makes a person think about food all day long, in turn making fat loss even more difficult (because they don’t always resist the cravings!).
The best way around this dilemma? Reach your target calorie-intake while eating the right foods – because these can keep you full for longer, ward off hunger and even make you eat less at the next meal. All of this will eventually help keep a negative calorie balance, which is essentially what helps one reach their ideal weight, as mentioned in the 5 evidence-based truths about weight loss.
Let’s look at types of these foods as well as specific examples, after first understanding what makes them promote the feeling of fullness or satiety in the first place.
Even though it’s a source of carbohydrates, fibre is not broken down by the digestive system. It moves through the body, slowing digestion and regulating bowel movements.
The slow digestion is what helps you feel full for longer.
Here are the top 3 everyday fibre-rich foods:
Oats are especially great, because they feature a good mix of the two types of dietary fibre: soluble fibre (the type that lowers blood cholesterol) and insoluble fibre (the type that keeps your digestive system running smoothly).
Evidence suggests that, in addition to the high-fibre content, they could also keep you full by helping release satiety hormones (the ones that make you feel full) and delay the emptying of the stomach (which also makes you feel full).1, 2
Most people don’t know that popcorn is actually a wholegrain with a good amount of fibre! It’s the presence of butter and flavours in popcorn that gets the calorie count soaring. As long as you stick to unsweetened and unbuttered popcorn, you’ve got a great way to satisfy a snack craving!
3] Certain fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and other compounds that benefit our health. They contain fibre and water, adding bulk to your meals and filling you up.
Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and celery are amongst the most satiating vegetables. Fruits have sugar, so they’re better eaten whole rather than as juice.
Protein is the most filling food group! It’s great for fat-loss, promoting satiety in many ways, and even helping our body burn more calories in a day.
Increase the amount of protein in your diet by filling up on:
1] Eggs, fish and meat
With a little bit of almost every nutrient you need, an egg is a quick and easy way to get a whole 6 grams of protein.
A fascinating study even showed that people who ate an egg for breakfast, versus those who ate a bagel (which had about the same calories), consumed fewer calories for the next 36 hours!3
Meat and fish are also excellent, since they’re loaded with all sorts of nutrients along with the protein. In fact, the omega-3 fatty acids from fish may help burn fat and promote satiety, too.4, 5
Legumes are low in fat and high in protein; they’re also very high in fibre and other nutrients.
Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas etc. have been proven to keep us full for a long time.6 That’s why hummus, which is made of chickpeas, makes for an ideal snack.
(Beans have a somewhat bad reputation when it comes to gas; the key is to boost your fibre intake gradually!)
3] Dairy Products
80% of milk’s protein content is ‘casein’, which digests very slowly because of its tendency to form clumps: the layers are slowly peeled off during digestion.
The remaining 20% of protein is ‘whey’, which promotes satiety quicker. That’s why dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese can make you eat a smaller meal and even keep you full for a while.7
Other than their content of fibre and protein, some foods are filling simply because of certain compounds in them. Two examples:
1] Boiled Potatoes
It may seem counterintuitive to have potatoes when you’re on a “diet”, but almost nothing (that’s nutritious) needs to be out of bounds if you stay within the calorie count. Although potatoes are very high in carbs, they are more filling than other carbs like rice and pasta.8This may be partly due to a protein called ‘proteinase inhibitor 2’, which has an appetite-reducing effect.
2] Coconut Oil
This highly saturated fat consists almost entirely of a certain type of fats, which are turned into molecules called ‘ketone bodies’ during periods of low food intake. They fuel cells and are thought to suppress appetite. Those like the taste of coconut can go ahead and use coconut oil for cooking!9, 10
So, if you’ve set a limit for your daily calorie intake, take a good look at the nutritional value of the foods that will contribute to it – and even help you stick to it, like these foods!
1. Beck EJ, et al. Mol Nutr Food Res 2009, 53(10): 1343-1351.
2. Kristensen M, Jensen MG. Appetite 2011, 56(1): 65-70.
3. Vander Wal JS, et al. J Am Coll Nutr 2005, 24(6): 510-515.
4. Parra D, et al. Appetite 2008, 51(3): 676-680.
5. Kim M, et al. Sci Rep 2015, 5: 18013.
6. Messina MJ. Am J Clin Nutr 1999, 70(3 Suppl): 439s-450s.
7. Pesta DH, Samuel VT. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2014, 11.
8. Erdmann J, et al. Eur J Nutr 2007, 46(4): 196-203.
9. McClernon FJ, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2007, 15(1): 182-187.
10. Stubbs RJ, Harbron CG. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1996, 20(5): 435-444.