When your stomach is empty, the way it informs us is efficient – and often troublesome for those who are attempting a fasting diet or just trying to curb the amount of food that they eat in a day. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is secreted by your gut when it’s running low on food, causing your brain to start processing hunger symptoms.
Fortunately, these hunger symptoms are regulated by another hormone, known as leptin. Leptin acts as an appetite suppressor, signalling your brain when you’re full so you know when to stop eating.
However, just as it’s possible to become resistant to insulin, it’s also possible to become resistant to the effects of leptin over time, according to researchers(1). Individuals with leptin resistance may have a difficult time controlling their weight.
Fortunately, there are foods that can help boost your leptin sensitivity, thereby improving your hunger management. Try these foods to help control your appetite:
Eating something rich in protein can set your fat-burning pace for the rest of the day, so it’s a good idea to start your day out strong. A study in the journal Nutrition Research compared the ghrelin response of two groups of men – one that consumed a breakfast which included eggs, and another that consumed a breakfast that consisted of bagels. The egg group reported feeling less hungry three hours later, and also consumed fewer calories over the following 24 hours(2).
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Foods that are high in fiber are great ghrelin suppressants, since ghrelin is suppressed when your stomach is full. Leafy greens and whole grains are always good go-tos for managing hunger, but one commonly overlooked vegetable is the artichoke. Artichokes are loaded with fiber, containing 40% of your daily recommended fiber intake per medium artichoke.
Everyone knows that a breakfast of oatmeal can be sustaining – it’s “stick to your ribs” food. But what you may not be aware of is the reason why it’s so satisfying: oatmeal is full of insoluble fiber(3). Studies have shown that people whose diets include insoluble fiber have lower ghrelin levels than those whose diets are lacking in insoluble fiber – so don’t skimp on breakfast; a bowl of oatmeal could make a huge difference in the amount of calories you consume throughout the day!
Potatoes get a bad rap – probably due to how often they’re buttered and fried. But when boiled and then chilled, they’re one of the most filling foods there is, according to the European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition(4). The process of cooking and then chilling the spuds transforms the starch content into resistant starch, which takes longer to break down in your intestine, delaying those hunger pangs and helping to burn fat.
Fish is a great source of protein for those who are trying to eat a “lighter” diet. High in inflammation-reducing omega-3 fatty acids, halibut in particular is one of the most filling types of fish there is. It has a high protein content, as well as high levels of tryptophan, which produces serotonin, a hunger-curbing hormone(5).
Oysters are an excellent dietary source of zinc, a mineral which works with leptin to suppress your appetite. Some research indicates that overweight individuals have not only higher levels of leptin resistance than slimmer people, but lower levels of zinc as well(6). Fortunately, zinc supplementation can increase leptin production significantly(7) – and oysters are a low-calorie source of not only zinc, but iron as well.
7. Rooibos Tea
This particular tea contains a flavonoid called aspalathin. According to one study, aspalathin can lower stress hormones responsible for hunger, fat storage and that are linked to hypertension, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
There are other foods that can help suppress your appetite and keep your ghrelin and leptin levels regulated – such as red apples, which are high in fiber – but treat this list as a tool for building a diet that fills you up without packing you full of empty calories. The more satisfied your meals make you feel, the less you’ll notice the effects of ghrelin, so be sure to eat a balanced diet with regular meals throughout the day.