Appetite is life insurance. Without this signal from the organism, we would not know when to fill the tank, we would run out of energy and, at worst, with worryingly dwindling health. But, in an environment where highly caloric foods abound, the reminder that we are alive can become a treacherous companion, in a shade that conspires so that the trouser size does not stop growing. Neutralizing your plot requires good nutritional information, and probably knowing how to take advantage of a food feature that is not always taken into account when choosing the menu: the satiety they produce.
It is the idea behind the project of a team of researchers who tested the virtues of a diet based on highly satiating food on 69 obese men. Scientists separated them into two groups, one that followed a satiating regimen for 16 weeks and another that made standard restrictive diet. The result, published in 2017 in the British Journal of Nutrition, was that those who ingested foods with the highest rate of satiety lost more body fat and almost none gave up their diet, compared to nearly half of those who followed the regimen Restrictive. That is, its weight, predictably, would remain long-term, a success for anyone who has tried slimming diets for a few months.
It's just a study, yes, but there's more. And reality supports the conclusion of this investigation. Think about what happens when you eat a mixed white-pan bread sandwich and what happens when you opt for a slice of hummus-smeared wholemeal bread. Normally, in the first case, you had to get up for more food long before the second. If you apply this pattern to the whole diet, and imagine what your diet will be like over time, you shouldn't be surprised by the idea that if you prefer satiating foods you'll end up eating a lot more. But you'll probably eat worse. According to the department of Food technology and nutrition at the Catholic University of Murcia Carmen Lucas Abellán, "what is satiating is not the calories but the volume and type of digestion of food. In fact, some of them may be very caloric, but in our body their main function is not going to be the production of calories but the use of these for other purposes, as is the case of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids". Yes, there are plenty of reasons to know what foods are in a satiating diet.
Fruit, yogurt, cooked potato and pasta al dente
The expert in de-making the nutritional composition of the food with which we dress the table knows the names of this type of food, which stand out for being minimally processed." Eggs, fish, oat meal soup, whole wheat bread, legumes, nuts, oranges, kiwis, apples, strawberries, blueberries, green leafy vegetables, vinegar (which promotes blood glucose control by lowering the glycemic index of natural yogurt, homemade soup and infusions (many are diuretic and relaxing, so they increase satiety and reduce hunger)" he says. And there are many more.
The biochemist at the University of Sydney Susana Holt and her team developed a satiety index in 1995 that classifies food by its ability to satiate hunger, based on each other's nutrients. This index is expressed in a percentage that, the higher, the more satiating power it gives to the food. The table that collects these foods, which is still used as a reference, first puts cooked potatoes, with a satiety percentage of 323%. The same amount of fries drops to 116%. Second place is for fish, with 225%. Foods such as eggs (150%), oats (209%), wholemeal pasta (188%), beef (176%), wholemeal bread (157%), oranges (202%) also stand out. and apples (197%). Among those who are likely to make you snack just 30 minutes after eating them are croissant (47%), bags of chips (91%) and chocolate bars (70%).
It is not the only reference, there are numerous works that analyze the ability to satisfy the appetite of many specific foods, but many of the results of these studies have been controversial or, at least, not enough research has been done to generalize their findings. In any case, it does not seem convenient to use this index as the only guide to making the daily menu. "First, it should be borne in mind that not all foods have been studied and, second, that these satiety indices have been made with isolated foods, but what we normally eat are mixtures of these foods (to which we also add dressings), which can be change the feeling of satiety," explains the professor of nutrition at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) Angeles Carbajal.
But there is no doubt that eating a fish plate and cooked potato is better than noticing a croissant with chips and scientists agree on the characteristics that food has to have to be highly satisfied. "They dilate the walls of the stomach and send signals to the brain of fullness. They fill, depending on the volume of food consumed, by the content of water, dietary fiber (which slows gastric emptying, which produces more feeling of filling) and macronutrients (especially proteins, which modify the secretion of some hormones related to hunger and satiety and increase energy expenditure)." These foods are often underprocessed, wholesome (with less fat, sugar and calories) and require chewing. Its structure is usually solid, hard and viscous, they have a high protein content, which is the most satiating macronutrient (although it is not well known if it is more so animal or vegetable), a lot of fiber and starch resistant to digestion, which behaves like fiber and is , for example, in al dente pasta. They also have a low glycemic index (they are slow-absorbing carbohydrates) and low energy density (they are rich in fiber, in water and low in fat). Being alert to detect these features is no more, but you have to keep in mind that satiety is not everything.
If your appetite is anxiety, you may not benefit
Research notes that nutrient composition is one of the factors that affect the feeling of satiety, but this is just one of the many influences that determine energy intake and body weight. In fact, it is the result of numerous hormonal, neural, physical and nutritional signals that converge in the brain to control appetite and food intake, and all of these factors do not act in the same way in all individuals. There are people who never feel full and others who eat without hunger, due, for example, to a state of anxiety. For those who don't control the amounts, applying the logic of the satiating diet could be counterproductive.
"Individual predisposition must be taken into account, as there are phenotypicalpeople with low levels of satiety," explains the UCM teacher. Studies like one recently published in the journal Nutrients show that there are people with low capacity to respond to satiety, more prone to eating in response to external signals, such as the simple smell of food or the mere fact of seeing food. Research also links this circumstance to people who have poor quality sleep and increased anxiety.
So you can't confirm that a certain diet and eating certain foods ensures a weight loss (although the idea of choosing satiating foods is more to keep it than to lose it) because "the requirements of any diet weight loss or weight maintenance are changing eating habits, but also lifestyle habits," Carbajal recalls. Another important detail is that we should not get carried away by the claim "increases satiety". It seems that everyone wants to appropriate it, but the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected that many products can display them. The reason is that, as Carbajal points out, "it is true that when a food is advertised with a virtue or attribute related to health what we usually do in eating more of it without taking another one out of the diet. In the end we will be eating more calories, so there will be a weight gain."
For his part, Lucas Abellán concludes that "this type of satiating diet is, in short, the balanced diet that anyone should be carrying, and that, a priori, poses no risk to the population". But it also points out that, for those who need to reduce anxiety, this type of diet should be introduced progressively (although not restrictive). "People need to be re-educated to receive a proper nutritional education and gradually adapt to what is a balanced diet, which will end up being a nutritional habit that they can maintain over time." And who wouldn't sign for such a re-education?