How long after a meal before hunger and food cravings strikes again? Do food cravings hit only a few hours later? Then it’s time to take a closer look at the composition of your diet. Research clearly shows adding protein to a meal increases satiety and leads to the consumption of fewer calories later in the day. In fact, protein is the most satiating of the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
You might not think carbohydrates are satiating, but it all depends upon the type you choose. Fiber-rich carbohydrates ARE satisfying. According to a new study published in Consultant 360, a meal consisting of moderate protein and high in fiber is just as satiating as a high-protein meal. In this study, they served 28 healthy adults a meatloaf meal. Half of the adults ate a beef meatloaf that had 26 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber while the other half ate a meatloaf made of beef and beans. The second “bean” meatloaf had a macronutrient composition of 17 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber.
After the meatloaf meal, researchers monitored how much food the participants ate and how full they felt. The results? Both groups ate roughly the same amount of food at subsequent meals and experienced similar degrees of satiety. As the researchers in this study pointed out: the combination of protein and fiber is a potent combination for hunger control. Plus, you get the benefits of adding more fiber to your diet. Most Americans fall short of meeting their recommended daily intake of fiber – 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Compare that to the amount the average person gets – only 15 grams. Talk about a shortfall!
Other Health Benefits of Fiber
Adding more fiber to your diet has a variety of health benefits. Fiber-rich foods slow the absorption of sugars from your digestive tract, which helps with blood sugar control. A fiber-rich diet also has favorable effects on blood lipids. Research shows fiber helps lower LDL-cholesterol. It also may help trim your waistline.
One way in which fiber helps with weight loss is by its effects on satiety, but fiber also reduces fat absorption, to some degree. Plus, certain types of fibers act as “prebiotics,” food for gut-friendly bacteria that impact your health. More research is pointing to gut bacteria as a potential contributor to body weight. Obese people have a gut bacteria population that differs from thin people and when you transfer gut bacteria from lean animals to obese ones, the obese ones lose weight. Pretty compelling – and a good reason to eat more fiber-rich foods.
As you can see, fiber has a host of health benefits – but here’s one you may not be aware of. A study showed people with the highest fiber consumption were less likely to die of all causes relative to those who ate the least fiber-rich diets. Of course, people who eat a diet rich in fiber are probably making smarter food choices overall, but it’s an interesting association.
As you know, animal-based products like meat and dairy contain little or no fiber, but a number of plant-based foods are high in fiber AND protein. One of the best examples are legumes, including beans, lentils, and peanuts. A half-cup of beans supplies almost a half a day’s fiber requirements along with a substantial amount of protein. No wonder beans are so filling! Here’s another reason to nibble on beans. One study found bean eaters weighed less and had leaner waistlines than those who avoided eating beans.
Some whole grains, like quinoa, are a rich source of both protein and fiber. Starting the morning with quinoa cereal (a cup of quinoa cooked has 9 grams of protein) and an egg is an effective way to conquer food cravings. Amaranth, Teff, Spelt, Kamut, and Bulgur are other high-protein. Fiber-rich whole grains to add to your diet. Why not combine beans and whole grains and make a whole-grain, bean salad for lunch?
We can’t leave out soy – a complete source of all of the essential amino acids your body needs but can’t make. The best option is fermented soy, like tempeh. When prepared properly, tempeh has the texture of meat and is a good way to diversify your diet. A half-package of tempeh has around 20 grams of protein.
Nuts and Seeds Offer Fiber and Protein Reducing Food Cravings
Nuts are another high-fiber food that contain respectable amounts of protein. An ounce of nuts has between 5 and 6 grams of protein. Seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, and flaxseeds, are another healthy combination of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Don’t forget about chia seeds! An ounce of chia seeds has 5 grams of protein and a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Plus, they contain plant-based, short-chain omega-3s.
When you crave something sweet, make chia seed pudding. Simply soak chia seeds in your favorite milk or milk substitute overnight. Add a hint of Stevia, a pinch of sea salt, and a bit of cinnamon – and enjoy. When you soak chia seeds in milk, the mixture takes on the texture of tapioca and it makes a very filling, satisfying, and guilt-free pudding. Sprinkle your chia pudding with crushed nuts and ground flaxseed for even more protein and fiber.
What’s fascinating about chia seeds is the way they soak up moisture and expand. Once they hit your stomach, they continue to expand and you know what that does – makes you feel full! It also slows the absorption of other dietary components and helps moderate your blood sugar.
The Bottom Line
Plant-based sources of protein combine the satiating power of protein with equally satisfying fiber. It’s a potent combination for keeping food cravings in check. Don’t assume all of your protein has to come from animal sources – plants have something animal protein doesn’t have – fiber and antioxidants. Choose foods that contain protein AND fiber for maximum satiety and to keep food cravings in check.
Consultant 360. “Can a High Fiber Bean-Based Meal Offer the Same Fullness as a High Protein Beef Meal?” 9-21-15.
Consultant 360. “Study: Dietary Fiber Should Come from Multiple Sources”
Consultant 360. “Higher-fiber diet linked to lower mortality”
Life Extension Magazine. “High Fiber Supports Weight Loss”
WebMD. “Beans: Protein-Rich Superfoods”
Related Articles By Cathe: