If you’re trying to lose weight, or just looking to eat less (to save money and give your digestive system a break), there are some excellent habits to pick up, and certain foods to eat that suppress hunger over a longer period of time than others. After the stomach has been stretched from eating, it sends a signal to the brain, communicating that you’ve had enough. But if a piece of chocolate cake is placed in front of you before that happens, the signal won’t get through. To feel full on less food, eat slowly. Dieticians recommend taking half an hour to eat a meal. Chewing thoroughly makes food easier for the stomach to break down (decreasing stomachaches), and allowing more time for the signal of satiation to get through. Likewise, cut down on distractions while eating; reading a book, checking email, watching TV—all of these interfere with mind/body communication. Eat mindfully, taste what you’re eating. And do try these foods proven to suppress hunger.
Besides their healthy fats, which keep bad cholesterol levels low, nuts are high in fiber. Fiber digests very slowly, staying in the stomach longer than other carbohydrates, making you feel full for hours. A quarter cup of almonds contains four grams of fiber, and it’s good for whitening your teeth too.
Apples have lots of fiber and water, and both of these elements sustain satiation. They also contain pectin, which prevents the blood sugar spikes that trigger hunger attacks. And they freshen the breath—they’re an ideal afternoon snack.
Rich in fiber, oats draw out toxins when applied to itchy skin in a warm poultice. As an appetite suppressant, consider this: a half-cup of rolled oats has five grams of fiber. Beyond this, oatmeal increases the level of cholecystokinin—an appetite-regulating hormone—in the body, stabilizing hunger.
The mint family has long been used in traditional medicine as calmative agents; inhaling mint quiets the mind and belly. Mint also works very well as an appetite suppressant. To cut back on between meal snacking, suck on a low sugar mint (it seems to work even better after a cup of coffee—double the hunger killer). Or, dab a few drops of peppermint essential oil on your hand, in the webbing next to your thumb (a nervous center hotspot).
Numerous studies have cited the benefit of eating eggs in the morning. Although an egg is higher in calories than a slice of toast, the protein in the egg sustains you much longer into the day than just carbohydrates, or fruits (their sugars burn off rather quickly). The result is that you eat fewer calories throughout the day.
Spices have been undervalued in societies that promote (and so, crave), excessive sodium and sugar. But besides adding delicate flavor to meals, spices help maintain the feeling of fullness longer after eating, and they speed up the metabolism. One study found that people consumed 60 fewer calories (and burned 10 extra ones) when they added cayenne pepper to a bowl of soup.
To the many health benefits of staying hydrated, add suppressing appetite. If you drink an eight-ounce (or more) glass of water before a meal, your stomach will begin to feel full much faster, and send the satiation signal to your brain sooner. Drinking water in between meals, instead of mindlessly snacking, works for many people; throw in a slice of lemon for a little flavor.
8. Green tea
Green tea affects the nervous system in some interesting ways. It influences norepinephrine and dopamine, hormones that activate the sympathetic nervous system, decreasing the desire to eat (by increasing other pleasure centers). And, green tea is mostly water, with all its satiating qualities.
9. Lean protein
Similar to eggs, foods with lean protein (poultry, fish, lean meats) take a long time to digest, maintaining a feeling of satiety. Low-fat dairy products have a similar effect. While it’s not practical to eat lean protein three times a day, it makes sense to include it in lunch or an early dinner—you’ll be unlikely to snack afterwards.
10. Leafy greens
Very low in calories, leafy green vegetables offer loads of vitamins and minerals. If you eat a few leaves of spinach before a meal, (in a salad or by themselves), you won’t eat as much of the dinner to follow. Chewing spinach or kale takes time (and it burns calories), giving your stomach space to contact your brain. Another idea: blend a spinach smoothie. Besides the goodies in the spinach, blending mixes air in, which also tricks your stomach into feeling full.