Hmm…nuts or popcorn? Yogurt or apple? Salmon salad or turkey wrap? If you're looking to feel satisfied and maybe drop a few pounds, certain foods will give you a bigger bang for your calorie buck. You'll get more energy and go longer before sneaking back to the fridge or pantry to refuel.
The secret to these appetite-busters? They're harder to digest. "Digestion accounts for about five to 10 percent of our total metabolism," explains Marjorie Nolan Cohn, R.D.N., owner of MNC Nutrition. "Eating foods that require more work gets your digestive system working harder and keeps it occupied longer, making you feel full and ultimately burning more calories." These foods will help you get more mileage from your meals.
Though barley is a carbohydrate, which we tend to associate with quick-burning energy, a recent study from Lund University in Sweden found that it actually lowers appetite—and also reduces blood sugar levels and diabetes risk. Credit goes to barley's special mix of dietary fibres, which also make it super-filling. In the study, healthy middle-aged folks who ate bread made out of barley kernels three times per day showed an elevated metabolism for up to 14 hours afterward—not to mention reduced blood sugar and insulin levels. The researchers suggest using barley in salads, soups, and stews and as an alternative to rice or potatoes.
If you don't carry hot sauce in your bag like Beyoncé does, you might want to start. Researchers at Purdue University have discovered that red pepper can curb appetite and boost calorie burn—especially if you're not already in the habit of adding the hot spice to your meals. Just a half teaspoon of the hot stuff added to foods is all it takes to see a temporary metabolic lift.
When it comes to appetite control, lean protein is your go-to pick. Research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirms that filling your plate with high-quality protein keeps cravings at bay between meals. Just 115g of lean meat, such as grass-fed beef, pork, or chicken, can anchor a protein-packed meal. If you aren't a carnivore, pump up your protein intake with legumes, such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas, and green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and peas.
Eating salmon may help you feel fuller longer because it's high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to increase the amount of the fat-cell-derived hormone leptin in your system. (And it also can help lower your cholesterol.) According to a 2013 study in the journal Cell Metabolism, leptin suppresses hunger in people who are at a healthy weight (it may not have the same effect in people who are obese). Other good sources of omega-3s are tuna, trout, and mackerel.
Already starving a few hours after breakfast, and lunch isn't for a while? A handful of raw almonds will keep mid-morning munchies in check. A 2015 study in the European Journal of Nutrition followed healthy women, some of whom ate almonds mid-morning and some of whom didn't snack at all. After three days, the women who'd snacked on almonds reported feeling fuller—and went on to eat less at lunch and dinner, so they didn't end up taking in extra calories. Resist the flavoured, coated, or salted variety and stick to raw almonds.
Okay, this one's a liquid. But Fenugreek tea may help kick cravings as well as certain foods do. A small 2015 Korean study of overweight women published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research had nine healthy overweight women drink fennel tea, fenugreek tea, or a placebo tea and then select foods from a buffet. Those who drank the fenugreek tea piled less food on their plates because they reportedly felt less hungry, likely thanks to fenugreek's high amount of water-soluble fibre. (Be sure to avoid diet soft drink as your drink of choice.)
Source: Women's Health