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food for thought

Studies have found that including avocado in your diet increases satiety.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q: I don’t feel satisfied after finishing my meals. Are there healthy foods I can add to my diet that will make me feel full?

Eating a meal should satisfy your hunger and tastebuds, as well as provide your body with fuel for the next few hours. Eating a satiating meal can also deter you from unwanted snacking.

If your meals aren’t satisfying, they might not include the right foods. Some foods do a better job of maintaining the feeling of fullness for longer than others.

In general, the more protein, fibre and water a food contains the longer it will satisfy you.

Eating the right kind of carbohydrates matters, too. Carbohydrate-containing foods that have a low glycemic index (e.g., oats, whole wheat pasta, bran cereal) will satisfy you longer because they take longer to digest.

The sheer bulk of a food also contributes to its filling factor. Eating a large volume of food can stretch your stomach wall, causing the vagus nerve to tell your brain you’ve had enough to eat. Your vagus nerve carries signals from your digestive system to your brain and vice versa.

Including the following healthy foods in meals can help you feel satisfied longer after eating. Here’s why they’re filling and what nutritional perks they come with, plus tips on how to add them to your meals and snacks.

Avocado

Studies have found that including avocado in your diet increases satiety. In one study, participants who ate half an avocado at lunch reported a higher satiety level and a lower desire to eat over the next five hours.

Half of an avocado delivers 7 g of filling-fibre and also contains 73 per cent water by weight. The fat in an avocado, 70 per cent of it being heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, may also help promote satiety.

Avocados are also exceptional sources of folate, a B vitamin used to make DNA and blood pressure-regulating potassium.

Add avocado to green salads, wraps and sandwiches. Enjoy avocado toast for breakfast. Toss chunks of avocado with cooked shrimp, mango, fresh mint and lime juice for a refreshing summer meal.

Beans and lentils

According to a 2014 review of randomized controlled trials published in the journal Obesity, adding pulses (e.g., chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, etc.) to meals can increase after-meal satiety.

Participants who did so felt 31 per cent fuller compared to when they ate control meals that included quickly digested high-glycemic carbohydrates. Both meals were equivalent in calories.

Pulses score high when it comes to satiety-promoting protein and fibre. A three quarter-cup serving of black beans, for instance, serves up 11 g of each. And thanks to their high fibre content, pulses have a low glycemic index.

Pulses are also excellent sources of folate, potassium and magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.

Make a batch of lentil or bean salad for easy plant-based lunches during the week. Add pulses to green salads and grain bowls or use as a spread for wraps. Instead of white pasta, try a bean or lentil pasta.

Cruciferous vegetables

To help fill you up, bulk up your meal with low-calorie cruciferous veggies (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale). Besides increasing volume, they also add fibre and water to your meal.

This family of vegetables also contains phytochemicals called glucosinolates. Once consumed, glucosinolates are converted to active compounds called isothiocyanates which have anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

You’ll get more isothiocyanates if you eat cruciferous vegetables raw or lightly cooked.

Serve a summer slaw with shredded kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Toss raw broccoli and cauliflower florets into a pasta salad. Serve cauliflower “rice” instead of white rice.

Nuts

Like pulses, nuts are a good source of protein and fibre, making them a satiating snack. The act of chewing nuts to break them down into small pieces also activates satiety-promoting gut hormones.

As part of a healthy diet, a daily serving of nuts (30 to 45 g) can help lower elevated blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats along with magnesium, calcium, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin E.

Soup

Thanks to its high volume of water, adding soup to a meal will help fill you up. Plus, a broth-based soup is a good vehicle for vegetables, not to mention beans and lentils.

To increase satiety, consider starting your meal with a bowl of gazpacho. Besides water, this cold summer soup also offers fibre, vitamins A and C and potassium.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

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