What Fills You Up? Don't Let Hunger Sabotage Your Diet

06/04/2015 01:48 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2016


Hunger sabotages diets. Many dieters know what to do, but they can't stick to their diets because they feel too hungry. If you eat too much of anything, you'll feel full. But which foods can fill you up without overeating? If you can answer that question, you can master your cravings.

I'll briefly discuss some views and studies, then give some practical steps that can reduce your hunger today.

Let's look at a typical pair of contradictory statements:
"Low glycemic index foods (good carbs) are slowly digested and more filling . . .[1]"
"Fat doesn't make you fat. Sugar does. That's what the carbs do when you eat them. They turn into sugar. The fat fills you up, so you just aren't as hungry.[2]"

What is the truth? Thankfully, many high-quality, recent studies have been done in answer to this question. These studies examined how filling different foods were in controlled situations.

Yoshimi Niwano led a team that reviewed all studies to date on whether low-glycemic index diets reduced hunger. Although only a few, well-done studies were available, they had the same conclusions: The glycemic index of a food changes neither appetite nor the hormones related to hunger.[3]

Fat is also not an effective hunger blocker. In an experiment, a group was given breakfasts with or without added fat, then allowed to eat as much lunch as they wished. Those on the high-fat breakfast ate an average of 715 calories for lunch. Those on the lower-fat breakfast stopped after an average of 480 calories.[4] Other studies have shown the type of fat does not change the outcome. In general, fats are not filling regardless of whether they are saturated fats (like meat and coconut), monounsaturated fats (like olive oil and almonds) or polyunsaturated fats (like sunflower oil and walnuts).[5] Fats are an important part of the diet, but they can easily be overeaten.

Studies have shown the most filling foods are those high in carbs and protein.[6] In fact, multiple studies have shown the single, most filling food per calorie is the potato.[7,8]

In one of the better studies, a group of scientists looked at a group of young people. Most participants were lean, but a few were heavy. They were given the same amount of calories of 38 different foods, questionnaires about their hunger and tests for their insulin and blood sugar levels. This study was different from many others because regular foods were used rather than unusual beverages or puddings. Foods used included cereals, potatoes, fish, meats, popcorn, nuts, bread, fruit and pastries. Nuts were not more filling than pastries. Popcorn was not more filling than bread. The one food that really stood out was potatoes.

Other studies have shown that -- no surprise -- potato chips[9] or French fries[10] are not as filling as baked or boiled potatoes.

Potatoes that are boiled and refrigerated may be the most powerful, hunger-fighting food known since they have the highest amount of appetite-lowering compounds, called resistant fibers.[11]

Some authors have voiced concerns over toxic glycoalkaloids in potatoes. These have been shown to be harmless in lab models and in populations consuming large amounts of potatoes for decades.[12] The other concern about potatoes is the possible role nightshade genus plants may have on arthritis and autoimmune disease. Barring any unusual, individual responses, no published studies support this concern. Moreover, one study suggests that an alkaloid from nightshade plants may stop inflammation.[13]

Try my favorite snack recipe:

Start with two pounds of purple or red-fleshed potatoes. They are rich in antioxidants and may be higher in resistant fibers.

Bring two quarts of water to a fast boil.

Scrub the potatoes well, and cut into quarters.

Boil the potatoes for 17-20 minutes or until their flesh is easily pierced with a fork.

Refrigerate four or more hours

As a snack, serve cold with a few sprinkles of finishing salt and a dash of olive oil.



1 Body and Soul Nutrition Tips. The Best low-GI foods., 28911. Accessed 5/27/15.
2 Lowcarber forum. Accessed 5/27/15.
3 Niwano Y1, Adachi T, Kashimura J, Sakata T, Sasaki H, Sekine K, Yamamoto S, Yonekubo A, Kimura S. Is glycemic index of food a feasible predictor of appetite, hunger, and satiety? J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Jun;55(3):201-7.
4 Blundell JE1, Burley VJ, Cotton JR, Lawton CL. Dietary fat and the control of energy intake: evaluating the effects of fat on meal size and postmeal satiety.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1993 May;57(5 Suppl):772S-777S; discussion 777S-778S.
5 Kozimor A1, Chang H, Cooper JA. Effects of dietary fatty acid composition from a high fat meal on satiety.Appetite. 2013 Oct;69:39-45. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.05.006. Epub 2013 May 18.
6 Holt SH1, Brand Miller JC, Petocz P. Interrelationships among postprandial satiety, glucose and insulin responses and changes in subsequent food intake. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996 Dec;50(12):788-97.
7 Haub MD1, Louk JA, Lopez TC. Novel resistant potato starches on glycemia and satiety in humans. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:478043. doi: 10.1155/2012/478043. Epub 2012 May 13.
8 Geliebter A1, Lee MI, Abdillahi M, Jones. Satiety following intake of potatoes and other carbohydrate test meals. J.Ann Nutr Metab. 2013;62(1):37-43. doi: 10.1159/000342638. Epub 2012 Dec 4.
9 Patel BP, Bellissimo N, Luhovyy B, Bennett LJ, Hurton E, Painter JE, Anderson GH.
An after-school snack of raisins lowers cumulative food intake in young children.
J Food Sci. 2013 Jun;78 Suppl 1:A5-A10. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12070.
PMID: 23789934.
10 Leeman M1, Ostman E, Björck I.Eur Glycaemic and satiating properties of potato products. J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jan;62(1):87-95. Epub 2007 Feb 28.
11 Anderson GH1, Soeandy CD, Smith CE. White vegetables: glycemia and satiety. Adv Nutr. 2013 May 1;4(3):356S-67S. doi: 10.3945/an.112.003509.
12 Mendel Friedman. Potato Glycoalkaloids and Metabolites:  Roles in the Plant and in the Diet. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2006, 54 (23), pp 8655-8681.
13 Pandurangan A1, Khosa RL, Hemalatha S. Anti-inflammatory activity of an alkaloid from Solanum trilobatum on acute and chronic inflammation models.
Nat Prod Res. 2011 Jul;25(12):1132-41. doi: 10.1080/14786410903370783.