Top 5 Foods You Should Eat When Dieting
On paper, dieting seems simple. But a few days into a diet, when hunger strikes, it becomes far more difficult to execute than anticipated. Part of why so many people fail at their fat loss goals is because they’re unable to handle the hunger that results from forcing the body to function on lower levels of caloric intake then it’s comfortable doing. The more hungry you are, the more likely you are to snack on the wrong foods or overeat which can thwart your weight-loss efforts. If you’re aggressively pursuing fat loss, hunger is, to some extent unavoidably. However, all foods are created equal, and some foods do a better job of filling you up and signaling satiety to your brain than others.
About 20 years or so ago, researchers developed whats called the Satiety Index, which is a list of foods ranked by how well they keep you full over a two-hour period. Factors that contributed to how high a food ranked on the Satiety Index were the amount of fiber, protein, and water in the food, as well as the sheer bulk or volume of the food. For example beans and lentils, both very fiber dense ranked well. So did any high-volume foods such as potatoes (white and sweet), popcorn, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal.
The Satiety Index helps you understand which foods will “fill you up” longer. This is important when dieting, because the more satisfying a food is, the less nibbling you’ll be tempted to do.
Ironically enough, the most satisfying foods were NOT the most calorie dense foods.
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For example fattier foods, even though high in calories, weren’t the most satisfying because they were so low in volume. And foods with a high water content (like soup and salad at lunch for example) left people hungry because they leave the stomach so quickly. Foods that required chewing, versus foods that were liquid (like shakes and smoothies), also were more satiating. Lean proteins (particularly chicken and fish) had some of the highest satiety rankings.
There are a few foods I can suggest consuming if you’re struggling with “feeling full” on your diet:
1) Eggs and Egg Whites
Most of America consumes carbs for breakfast (think bagel with cream cheese, muffin, Danish, doughnuts, etc) and forgets about protein intake entirely. But studies, in particular, one done on the short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, demonstrated that a high protein breakfast leads to LESS snacking, nibbling and over-eating throughout the remainder of the day. Adding some whole eggs or egg whites to your breakfast can keep you fuller longer.
Avocados, while usually thought of as a “fat” are actually a fruit, and a unique combination of both dietary fat and carbs. They’re also remarkably high in fiber. A study published in “The Nutrition Journal” found that 1/2 an avocado added to your meal can help keep you satiated for up to 5 hours following that meal.
Say what you will about carbs, but fiber-packed potatoes kept participants in the initial satiety index study full two hours after eating, 3x longer than the average food. This is largely because of the fiber and volume content of potatoes, both white and sweet. Close behind were starchy squashes such as butternut and acorn which both are high volume foods (not a lot of calories for a larger portion) and provide a lot of fiber.
4) Cooked White Fish
This is a contest prep staple of bodybuilding diets because it’s a lean source of protein, but beyond that, white fish ranks the highest in terms of protein satiety. Try steamed, baked or grilled cod, bass, halibut or flounder.
Oatmeal is definitely a high volume food. Oatmeal is also higher in fiber and protein than most breakfast cereals, and also contains more beta-glucan, which is what gives oatmeal its hydration and thickness. Since it’s a hot cereal it also expands in the stomach which further contributes to the sensation of fullness. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition compared satiety levels between oatmeal with milk and cereal with milk. The results showed that those who ate 250 calories worth of oatmeal had better appetite control and increased satiety, compared to those who got the same amount of calories from cereal.
Bonus – Dark Chocolate or Cacao
A study done in 2011 published in Nutrition & Diabetes examined the role of chocolate (dark versus milk) in satiety and reported cravings. The research found that dark chocolate promoted satiety and lowered the desire to eat something sweet for up to five hours afterward, whereas milk chocolate consumption actually had the opposite effect and PROMPTED cravings. The craving control that results from dark chocolate is thought to be because of the high cacao content. Cacao is actually a bean by nature, so it’s packed with protein, more iron than beef, more zinc and Vitamin C than most vegetables, and more magnesium than any plant-based food that exists. One really helpful nutritional benefit of raw cacao is that it is a powerful source of chromium which is a mineral that helps to reduce sugar cravings and improve insulin function in the body. Try adding some raw cacao powder to oatmeal, coffee, shakes, or smoothies or have 1/2-1 ounce of dark chocolate a day (70% or greater cacao content) to help control cravings.