We all know that we have an obesity problem in North America, and the problem isn’t that there is a lack of information out there; we all know what to do, we just have a problem doing it. My personal, and well supported, thought on that is that most ‘diets’ fail because they aren’t satiating and too much of it is left to willpower. You see, most of us can lose a lot of weight if we eat chicken and plain salad every day, but we would also need a heck of a lot of willpower in order to do that consistently…day after day, week after week. Generally speaking, any diet plan that fails to promote satiety and satisfaction is a diet that encourages food cravings and overeating and is destined to fail.
What is Satiety?
Put simply; we can define satiety as a feeling of being satisfied with the food we have eaten. A sense of fullness without experiencing cravings for more food.
What are the Most Satiating Foods?
Different macronutrients and different foods all have a very diverse effect on this sense of satisfaction. But as a general rule, protein is by far the most satiating of the macronutrients, followed by fibre and then fat. It’s the magical trifecta I have always talked about.
How much protein? 20 grams seems to be enough to maximize satiety. If you aren’t sure if you are reaching this, try using an online app like My Fitness Pal to track your meals for a few days.
The Calorie Myth
I guarantee you have heard this advise before; if you want to lose weight just move more and eat less. In other words count your calories. I cannot repeat it enough, all calories are NOT created equally. For example, 400 calories of salmon and kale will provide almost every nutrient in the book and a significant amount of satiation. On the other hand, 400 calories of pop will lead to a huge spike in blood sugar and insulin, which will eventually be stored as fat, and result in a subsequent blood sugar drop, leaving you craving more sugar soon after…and what was 400 calories will soon double, as the craving beats out your dwindling willpower and you reach for more food. And so, in this sense, all calories are most definitely not created equally.
And my advise has always been, rather than focusing on reducing calories, like most traditional diets do, it is much more beneficial to concentrate on increasing satiation and nutrient density.
Which Foods Should You Choose?
The simplest answer to this one is; eat WHOLE foods. By this I mean those you can picture growing in or on a farmers field, before they have been processed. For example:
- whole grains (not flour)
What Other Factors Affect Satiety?
Sleep plays a huge factor in satiety. People who sleep less weigh more and the theory is that it is because they wreak havoc on our hunger and satiety hormones, leptin and ghrelin (see below). People who experience short or disrupted sleeps have reduced leptin (satiety) and elevated ghrelin (hunger).
Alcohol does something similar. It stimulates hunger and reduces your satiety.
On the opposite spectrum is food volume. Studies have shown that individuals consume a consistent weight of food each day, rather than a consistent amount of calories. If this is true, then consuming low calorie dense foods that have a high volume will help you consume less calories overall, while maintaining satiety. High water and fibre content foods help make this happen, the best examples if this are fruits and vegetables and broth based soups.
Understanding Satiety Index
And the Oscar goes to…the Potato! I have to say, if potatoes were a famous actor they would be someone with an ability to play diverse roles, but always gets type cast the as the goofy sidekick.
I say this because it has always had a bad rep for being high carb and so it gets avoided, but did you know that it actually rates INCREDIBLY high in satiety?
Susanna Holt, PhD developed a satiety index of foods, where she took 240 calories of popular foods and ranked them according to how they compare to a slice of white bread, which was given the arbitrary ranking of 100. Oatmeal has a high satiety level at 209, while a croissant has the lowest at 47. While a boiled potato ranks highest at 323! (Interestingly, French fries scored 116 as she found foods that are a combination of fat and carbs to be the least satiating and create the most intense cravings afterwards.
The Role of Hormones in Hunger and Satiety
The two key hormones that play a significant role in appetite regulation are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a satiety hormone – meaning it decreases hunger when secreted, and ghrelin is a hunger hormone, which means it increases appetite when secreted.
In a perfect world, these hormones would help us stop eating when we are full and only start again when our stomach is empty but unfortunately most of us don’t listen to those signals and while we have a full stomach, we also have a hungry brain.
In conclusion, if you are trying to lose weight but you are struggling to maintain your motivation and consistency, maybe you need to try a new approach. By consuming more satiating foods through your day, you will naturally reduce your cravings and make weight loss a little less pain and hopefully a little less gain. 🙂