If you feel like you need to eat a snack after finishing a meal, consider adding beans (or lentils) to that meal. According to a recent review of studies conducted at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, you’ll feel fuller if you do, which could deter nibbling later on.
That’s good news if you’re cutting calories in an effort to lose weight. Feeling too hungry can derail your diet by triggering cravings and overeating. It can also zap your energy, steal your concentration and make you irritable. Knowing which foods do a good job of warding off hunger can increase the odds you’ll stick to a calorie-reduced diet.
The scientific review found that participants felt one-third fuller after eating about one serving (3/4 cup) of pulses (e.g. lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans…not green beans) in a meal compared to the control meals that included quickly digested, or high glycemic, carbohydrates like potatoes or bread. To put that in perspective, research suggests that increasing your feeling of fullness by 10 per cent can cause you to eat less, a definite advantage for weight control.
Generally speaking, the more fibre, protein and water a food contains the longer it will satisfy you. And pulses deliver when it comes to protein and fibre. A ¾ cup serving of lentils, for example, has13 grams of protein – the equivalent of almost four large egg whites – and 11 grams of fibre, the amount found in ½ cup of bran cereal.
Beans and lentils also have a low glycemic index meaning they don’t cause a sharp rise in blood glucose or insulin after eating, another way in which they can help you feel full longer.
Other foods have hunger-fighting powers too. Researchers from Sydney University in Australia have developed a “satiety index”, a tool that ranks foods by their ability to satisfy hunger. Using white bread as the comparison, volunteers ate 240-calorie portions of 38 different foods and rated their satiety over two hours.
Surprisingly, white boiled potatoes topped the list, satisfying people three times longer than 240 calories worth of white bread. French fries weren’t nearly as filling, scoring only slightly higher than white bread. Other fatty foods such as doughnuts, croissants and cakes didn’t fare well either, with satiety scores much lower than bread.
Due to their high protein, fibre and/or water contents – or their sheer bulk –the following foods can help you feel satisfied longer after eating.
Beans and lentils (pulses). Add pulses to salads, soups and pastas. Serve bean or lentil salad as a side dish instead of white rice. Add black beans or pinto beans to tacos and burritos. Use hummus (chickpea spread) instead of mayonnaise in wraps and sandwiches.
Oatmeal. It’s fibre (4 g per one cup), protein (6 g) and slow-burning carbohydrates help this hot cereal keep you feeling satisfied and energized longer in the morning. Choose large flake or steel-cut oats, which have a lower glycemic index.
Potatoes. Boiled potatoes were the most satisfying food tested for “satiety index”. To get even more fibre, eat boiled or baked potatoes with their skin. Top a baked potato with spicy salsa; capsaicin, the component that gives chili peppers their heat, has been shown to reduce hunger and cravings.
Whole-wheat pasta. Fibre-rich (6 g per cup, cooked), whole-wheat pasta also serves up protein (7.5 g per cup, cooked) and low glycemic carbohydrates. Among 38 foods tested, it ranked sixth on the satiety index scale.
Oranges. Fruits ranked near the top of the satiety index with oranges leading the pack (apples were a close second). Oranges are a good source of fibre (4.5 g per one large) and water (87 per cent).
Salad. Leafy green salads add bulk to meals, which fills you up with fewer calories. Consider starting your meal with salad to help fill you up sooner.
Soup. Research suggests eating soup before a meal can help you eat less and curb hunger later on thanks to its high water content. Vegetable-rich, broth-based soups are most filling.
Popcorn. It’s a snack that adds bulk and fibre, plus you can eat a lot more popcorn (air-popped) for the same calories as pretzels or chips. Five cups has 150 calories and 6 g of fibre; six pretzel twists have 140 calories and 1 g of fibre.
Adding certain foods to meals and snacks can make you feel fuller – and potentially help you eat less – but other strategies are important too. Eating at regular intervals during the day (every three to four hours), eating slowly and avoiding distractions while eating (e.g. watching television, reading, checking emails) will also help increase satiety and ward off hunger
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.