By Dr. Nina Radcliff
Ever wonder why we feel hungry just an hour after eating Chinese food? Although the flavoring MSG was once blamed for this, experts now believe that many of our favorite items on the menu contain carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index (GI). In other words, the white rice, white noodles, sugar, and white flour stimulate an excess insulin release that then causes our blood sugar levels to drop. Hence, we feel hunger because we are not satiated.
Satiety (sa-TIE-e-tee) describes the feeling of fullness that we have after eating. Not all foods, however, are created equal. And some do a better job of filling us up, thereby decreasing the number of calories we consume. By becoming familiar with foods that provide satiety or work via other means to help keep our waistlines trim, we are better equipped to make healthy choices for ourselves and loved ones.
About Foods that Help us Stay Trim
—Protein. A protein-rich meal increases our satiety and after-meal calorie burn to a greater extent than one that is rich in carbohydrates. How much? One study showed that it can equate to approximately 200 calories, or 10 percent over the day.
—MUFAs. The word “fat” is faux pas in our society. But not all fats are bad fats. MUFAs (pronounced moo-fah) are monounsaturated fatty acids that come from delectable treats such as avocados, nuts and seeds, oils, olives, and dark chocolate. In addition to being delightfully tasty, they provide satiety and may be able to help us drop a pants size.
—Vitamins and minerals. This may be a surprise to many: people who have a vitamin C deficiency are more likely to be overweight.
Researchers have also shown that zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E deficiencies can result in a higher percentage of body and belly fat.
The reason behind this is not clear at this time. Try getting our daily dose from our plate (fruit and veggies), not a pill supplement.
—Calcium and Dairy. Studies have shown that a diet high in calcium and dairy—milk, cheese, low fat yogurt—increases fecal fat. What this means is that these items decrease our gut’s fat absorption and more ends up in the porcelain throne (not on our hips). Calcium from supplements, however, do not have the same effect. Not that we need an excuse to nibble on some cheese.
—Honey. Let’s put forth the following caveat: because honey is a high energy food, it is unlikely to help lose weight when consumed in excess. However, it can be used as a substitute or replacement for refined sugar when we have a sweet tooth. This can mean less (empty) calories consumed.
—Cocoa. In addition to improving mood, being an antioxidant, and tasting yummy in our tummy, cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, can help keep our appetite at bay. It is satiating.
—Fiber. Because it is not absorbed, fiber cannot add to our daily calorie intake. Additionally, chewing high fiber items such as celery and carrots takes time and energy. And remember, our stomach requires 20 minutes to signal to our brain that we are full and need to “stop eating!” As a result, we are affording our body the opportunity to register that we are no longer hungry. In essence, we are “buying time.” And, we are getting more bang for our buck: fiber adds bulk and makes a meal feel larger and linger longer.
—Vinegar. The appetite suppressant effects come from its acetic acid content, which helps to decrease the glycemic index of the foods that we consume. By preventing a spike in insulin production that would cause blood sugar levels to plummet, we feel full longer following a meal (tongue twister).
—Spices. Let’s add some spice to our livesÖand our food. In addition to increasing satiety, spicy food has been shown to help increase metabolism by generating heat. Calories are burned in this energy-consuming process just like our heaters burn fuel in the winter.
—Mint. There is something about the strong scent that suppresses our appetite. Whether we add it to our water or tea, chew mint-flavored gum, or use mint-flavored toothpaste, we will find ourselves less likely to reach for a snack.
Using foods that help curb our appetite, decrease fat absorption or metabolism, or help satisfy our sweet tooth, can be a fun, clever, and tasty alternative to a crash or fad diet. And remember, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison,” said no fortune cookie ever.
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Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures. She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 text book chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.