There are lots of reasons people overeat and genuine hunger is only one of them. Some eat to calm their emotions or out of boredom rather than to boost their energy reserves. However, some people feel hungry and reach for a snack after a meal because they eat the wrong things. Ultra-processed carbohydrates and sugary foods are notorious for triggering food cravings a few hours after eating them. These foods cause rapid swings in blood sugar that make you feel hungry. Eating these foods are also notorious for causing sleepiness, fatigue, and lack of motivation.
On the other hand, you can choose foods that satisfy and help you fight hunger. Foods that fall into this category are high in protein or rich in fiber, both dietary components that suppress the urge to snack. Read on and discover some nutrient-dense foods that also help keep hunger in check.
A trendy fruit, avocados are creamy, nutrient-dense, and delicious in vegetarian bowls, salads, and wraps. Adding avocado to a meal could help you curb hunger too. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that substituting avocado for refined carbohydrates led to a significant drop in hunger and also an increase in PYY, a satiety hormone. Plus, avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats called monounsaturated fats that have a favorable effect on lipids.
Another bonus: Avocados are rich in lutein. A study in older adults found that subjects who ate an avocado daily had higher levels of lutein in their brain and eyes. They also enjoyed improvements in cognitive function. As a whole, avocados are an abundant source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and heart-healthy fats. What’s not to love about those perks?
Spinach is jampacked with vitamins and minerals, but it also contains compounds called thylakoids that help suppress appetite. Studies show that thylakoids tame appetite by boosting CCK, a satiety hormone. However, you must eat a fair amount of spinach to get the benefits. In the study, they used spinach extract. But spinach is rich in fiber and contains respectable quantities of plant-based protein to help you feel full. Plus, you get the other nutritional benefits that we’ve come to love leafy greens for. If you saute spinach in olive oil, you’ll get more appetite-suppressing benefits and the healthy fats will help your body absorb more of the beta-carotene from the spinach.
Eggs win points for their high protein content. In fact, eggs have the highest quality protein of any food and is the standard by which scientists judge other protein sources. One study found that participants who substituted eggs for a bagel for their morning meal felt fuller and ate fewer calories over the following 36 hours. Eggs are versatile too. You can combine them with fiber by making a veggie-rich omelet for breakfast!
If you’re not eating legumes, such as beans and lentils, why not? They’re an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber, and science backs their satiety benefits. A study published in the journal Obesity found that people who ate a cup of legumes felt 31% fuller and more satisfied than those who didn’t enjoy these foods.
What’s not to love about legumes? Beans and lentils are inexpensive, and you can buy them bulk and cook them in a pressure cooker to get them on the table fast. Beans are also rich in antioxidants with darker colored beans boasting the largest antioxidant punch. In fact, a study found that small red beans are higher in antioxidants than blueberries.
If you have problems with gas or bloating after eating beans, soak beans overnight before preparing them. Introduce higher fiber foods, such as beans into your diet slowly to give your digestive tract a chance to adapt. You might experience bloating and flatulence if you don’t.
The Mediterranean diet has so many health benefits and one reason is their love of extra-virgin olive oil. Preparing foods with olive oil may have another advantage too, this golden oil with its healthy fats may scale back hunger. In one study, researchers gave participants low-fat yogurt with added fat. The fats included rapeseed oil, lard, or olive oil. When they looked at how hungry the participants were after each of these enhanced yogurts, olive oil was linked with the greatest satiety. The participants also didn’t gain weight over the course of the study. In a subsequent study, researchers found that subjects who consumed yogurt with olive oil ate 176 fewer calories than those who snacked on plain yogurt.
How does olive oil fight hunger? For one, fat slows the movement of food out of the stomach and into the intestinal tract, so you feel fuller faster. Plus, the participants in the study had higher levels of serotonin in response to consuming olive oil. Serotonin is a key brain chemical involved in appetite control. Some people call serotonin the body’s natural appetite suppressant. It also plays a key role in mood. Substituting fat for refined carbohydrates also improves blood sugar control and that helps fight the desire to snack.
The Bottom Line
The key to health and satiety is to make smart food choices. These foods can help, but it’s more important to eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet that includes a variety of unprocessed foods. However, adding these nutrient-dense, hunger-busting foods to your diet may help you get a handle on hunger. So, enjoy!
- Nutrients, 2019; 11 , 952.
- Science Daily. “Avocados, as a substitution for carbohydrates, can suppress hunger without adding calories”
- Lanjun Zhu, Yancui Huang, Indika Edirisinghe, Eunyoung Park, Britt Burton-Freeman. Using the Avocado to Test the Satiety Effects of a Fat-Fiber Combination in Place of Carbohydrate Energy in a Breakfast Meal in Overweight and Obese Men and Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 2019; 11 (5): 952 DOI: 10.3390/nu11050952.
- com. “Nutritionist-Recommended Foods to Suppress Your Appetite Naturally”
- Holistic Primary Care. “Thylakoids in Leafy Greens May Help Regulate Appetite” Sunday, 24 February 2013.
- com. “Antioxidant Superstars: Vegetables and Beans”
- com. “Olive Oil Makes You Feel Full”
- Psychology Today. “Serotonin: What It Is and Why It’s Important for Weight Loss”
- J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6):510-5.