If you feel like you’re suffering from a permanent case of “The Munchies,” you’re not alone. Many people that I’ve counseled have told me that feeling hungry was the number one reason they gave up trying to lose weight.
The good news is you don’t have to be a hostage to your hunger. Research has identified compounds in specific foods that can help you feel fuller longer and turn down hunger hormones. Here are five natural “hunger stoppers” that can help you win the battle of the bulge without feeling famished.
While many berries offer health benefits, raspberries are a hunger-stopping standout. A one-cup serving of frozen red raspberries has only 80 calories and a whopping 9 grams of fiber. In fact, they’re one of the richest sources of fiber you can find. Because a high fiber diet makes people feel full sooner and longer, it helps to reduce food cravings.
Raspberries also provide a hearty dose of vitamin C, manganese, and potassium. In addition, a growing body of research is investigating how some phytonutrients (beneficial compounds found in fruits and vegetables) may offer protection against certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068482/) Clearly raspberries are a nutritional all-star when it comes to fighting cravings and disease!
How to get more in your diet: Fresh raspberries are a delightful summer treat. But don’t limit this tasty berry to the summer season only. You can buy frozen red raspberries all year long. Thaw at room temperature for a few minutes and add them to cold cereals, yogurt, and over salads. For an easy way to enjoy them is in a delicious breakfast smoothie. Blend 1 cup of both frozen red raspberries and nonfat milk with a medium banana for 60 seconds and you’re ready to start your day.
Seaweed is more than a trendy garnish; it’s real a cravings crusher. Seaweed has been enjoyed in Asia for centuries but is now gaining recognition for its appetite control and weight-loss benefits. Seaweed contains plenty of protein and soluble fiber, which helps slow digestion, and control blood sugar and cravings. What’s more, Japanese chemists have found that the brownish pigment in wakame (a seaweed often used in salads and soups) called fucoxanthin, promotes weight loss. A study conducted at Hokkaido University in Japan saw obese rats lose five to 10 percent of their body weight when fucoxanthin was added to their regular food. Fucoxanthin works by stimulating the production of a protein that increases the burning of fat.
How to get more in your diet: Look for seaweed in the ethnic aisle at grocery stores as well as at Asian or health food stores and use it in soups, stews and stir-fry recipes. There are also some roasted seaweed snacks. I like the Korean-style Sesame and Wasabi flavors of Annie Chun’s Seaweed Snacks – they’re high in vitamins and minerals and 10 pieces have only 30 calories.
Pistachios (…and other nuts)
Nuts may be another surprise on this list. But studies show that contrary to popular myth pistachios and other nuts may help squash hunger and control weight. Why? Nuts may help keep you fuller longer, and preliminary research suggests their calories aren’t fully absorbed by the body. What’s more, in-shell pistachios provide a unique advantage for waistline-watchers. A preliminary study from Eastern Illinois University suggests that people who snacked on in-shell pistachios consumed 41 percent fewer calories than those who ate shelled pistachios. The authors say the empty shells might be a helpful visual cue about how much has been eaten, thereby potentially encouraging you to eat less.
How to get more in your diet: Nuts are a great addition to cereals, yogurt, and even your favorite dessert. There also perfect for a trail mix. For my hikes, I take along a blend of pistachios, cranberries, and sunflower seeds.
Legumes (Beans, peas, lentils, soybeans and chickpeas)
Legumes are a triple threat to tame hunger because they’re packed with fiber, resistant starch and are and slow-to-digest protein. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jhn.12118/abstract), found that overweight people who ate a bean-rich diet lost nearly 10 pounds in 16 weeks while also improving their blood cholesterol levels. Another analysis published in the journal Obesity (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20782/abstract) found that people who ate about 1 cup (5.5 ounces) of legumes felt 31 percent fuller than those who didn’t eat these fiber-filled foods.
How to get more in your diet: Keep beans and other legumes in your pantry so you’ll have them on hand for fast, convenient, and healthy meals. I add them to salads and also use them for quick soups, side dishes, chili and burritos.
Eggs are another powerful tool in your hunger-fighting arsenal. One study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people ate eggs for breakfast (versus equal-calorie breakfasts of either cereal or croissants), they consumed up to 438 fewer calories over the entire day. Other research indicates that an egg breakfast may help control hunger for a full 24 hours.
How to get more in your diet: To keep blood cholesterol in check, limit your intake of eggs to 1 yolk per day and use egg whites for the additional protein they provide. One of my favorite egg dishes is a breakfast veggie scramble that I make with 1 whole egg and 2 whites with leftover chopped veggies and served in a warm low-fat whole-wheat tortilla.