A New and Surprising Way to Control Your Appetite – Eat Your Greens!

Eat your leafy greens to control your appetite

Appetite is a force that sends you running to the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets. Your appetite is controlled by a number of hormones including leptin – released by fat cells, ghrelin – released by cells in the lining of your stomach and hormones produced by your pancreas. Brain chemicals called neurotransmitters also “fine tune” your appetite and desire to eat.

The opposite of appetite and hunger is satiety. Satiety is that feeling of fullness and satisfaction you get after eating a meal. A number of factors influence satiety. When you eat a meal, your stomach distends due to the increased volume. Distension sends feedback to your brain through nerve pathways and your brain signals you to slow down – you’re full. The other hormones previously mentioned also play a role in satiety. The composition of what you eat influences how full you feel too. For example, research shows meals high in protein and fiber increase satiety. Now research shows eating your leafy greens does the same thing.

Eat Your Greens and Feel Fuller?

Researchers at the Department of Experimental Medicine at the Lund University of Sweden conducted a study. They asked a group of healthy, normal weight people to eat a pesto sandwich. One group ate a sandwich with a compound in greens called thylakoids added to their sandwich. The other group ate a pesto sandwich without thylakoids. The group that ate the sandwich with thylakoids showed changes in appetite hormones that signal satiety. They experienced higher levels of a hormone made by the pancreas called CCK that reduces appetite. Levels of another hormone called ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, dropped. In addition, leptin, a hormone that reduces the desire to eat, rose. They also had a lower rise in insulin compared to the control group. All good things when it comes to controlling your appetite!

What are Thylakoids?

The green, leafy vegetables you add to your salads and enjoy as a side dish have compounds called thylakoids embedded in their leaves. Thylakoids play an important role in photosynthesis, the process by which plants turn light into energy. As it turns out, they also help you feel fuller due to their effect on appetite hormones. When you eat foods containing thylakoids, they stimulate the release of CCK, a powerful satiety hormone produced by your pancreas. Research also shows thylakoids bind to fats and slow their breakdown. This causes you to feel fuller. People are now making thylakoid supplements to market as an appetite suppressant. Why not get the benefits by eating more leafy greens?

Leafy Greens – Loaded with Health Benefits

Dark, leafy greens like kale, arugula, spinach. Swiss chard, turnip greens, and Bok Choy, to name a few, are low in calories but packed full of vitamins and minerals. This makes them an exceptionally nutrient-dense food. Leafy greens are a good source of non-dairy calcium and potassium and many greens contain respectable amounts of magnesium and iron.

Most dark, leafy greens are a good source of some B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin K. In addition, dark, leafy greens are a stand-out source of phytonutrients like carotenoids that are important for eye health and a healthy immune system. Being low on the glycemic scale, they have little impact on blood sugar and are a good source of fiber. Gotta love the health benefits!

Leafy Greens are Versatile Too

With so many ways to add leafy greens to your diet, it’s not hard to add more thylakoids to your diet, as well as benefit from all the other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in greens. Leafy greens are a vitamin-packed addition to smoothies and are part of a growing trend called green smoothies. Green smoothies usually consist of some combination of leafy greens, fruit, milk or milk substitute and ice. For a thicker smoothie, add plain Greek yogurt. Worried about your smoothie tasting too “green?” Don’t worry, the fruit disguises the flavor of the greens. You can even add a scoop of protein powder to a green smoothie and turn it into a quick breakfast.

Leafy greens are a vitamin-and-mineral packed-base for a healthy salad. Think dark. Darker greens like spinach are more nutritious than lighter ones. Are you accustomed to making lettuce the base of your salad? Switch it up with spinach or marinated kale (to soften it). If you use lettuce, choose darker colors like romaine. Darker leaves absorb more light. As a result, they can synthesize more vitamins and phytonutrients. Dark, leafy greens like spinach and arugula are a good addition to wraps too.

Prefer your greens cooked? Steam them lightly to soften them and still preserve their nutrients. Saute kale with fresh garlic after separating the leaves from the tough stems. If you dislike kale because it’s tough, look for kale from smaller, younger plants. Add a handful of dark, leafy greens to soups, stews, and omelets too. Make pizza a little healthier by using steamed greens as a topping. When you make coleslaw, substitute leafy greens for some of the cabbage – but keep the cabbage too! Cabbage is loaded with anti-cancer compounds. Make kale chips in your oven and use them as a healthier alternative to potato chips.

The Bottom Line?

Who would have thought leafy greens could be so filling? You have thylakoids to thank. Enjoy dark, leafy greens for their many health benefits.



Holistic Primary Care. “Thylakoids in Leafy Greens May Help Regulate Appetite” Sunday, 24 February 2013.
JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2008 Sep-Oct;32(5):567-8. doi: 10.1177/0148607108322401
Am J Clin Nutr May 2008 vol. 87 no. 5 1558S-1561S
Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 2001, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 359-364.
United States Department of Agriculture. “Dark Leafy Greens”
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009, Jun 24; 57(12): 5494-500.


Related Articles By Cathe:

What Happens to Your Brain When You’re Hungry

Two Types of Hunger, One of Which Can Make You Fat

5 Factors That Affect Satiety

Why and How to Eat More Kale


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