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Your guide to satiety

A lady eating greek yogurt with fruit.
Satiety is THE buzzword when it comes to health and weight management. If you understand satiety, you’ll be able to choose the foods which make you full – and most importantly, be able to stop eating when you reach satiety.

What is satiety? 

Satiety (pronounced say-tie-itty in case you were wondering) is something of a buzzword in nutrition and weight loss. However, like many concepts touted as hot new ways to achieve weight loss, the idea of satiety is an in-built biological system as old as mankind itself.

Satiety meaning 

Satiety could be described as the absence of hunger – or a feeling of satisfaction and comfortable fullness.

Unsurprisingly, satiety is the key to weight loss as being satiated removes the desire to continue eating – meaning you’ll consume fewer calories. Satiety is an in-built bodily mechanism. We need to know to stop eating when we feel full, otherwise we’ll constantly under or over-eat – leading to health problems. 

Over our history, humans have generally been good at knowing when they’ve had enough to eat. This is because a diet of whole foods will allow the stomach to send signals to the brain that it’s full. 1 It’s very difficult to imagine eating vegetables or nuts, for example, until we’re uncomfortably full.

The problem is, with modern diets, the satiety message has become somewhat scrambled. Modern processed foods are engineered to be as delicious as possible. This sounds like a good thing, but unfortunately it means they tend towards being unnaturally high in salt, fat and sugar. This messes with the chemical signals sent to the brain by the gut – and as a result we’ve become much worse at trusting our natural satiety signals.2 

This makes foods calorie-dense yet non-satiating – the worst combination for those looking to lose weight. This approach of eating high-energy, low-satiety foods is a recipe for weight gain – but surprisingly few people consider the satiety of foods when choosing meals and snacks. 

Eating healthy, filling meals and satiating snacks will prevent you becoming too hungry and over-eating.

What’s an example of satiety?

Imagine it’s a few hours before dinner time. You want a snack to tide you over, but you don’t want to blow your daily calorie budget. 

Take a large bag of crisps. You’d have to eat a high number of calories from crisps to feel satiated. You munch through a large bag of crisps in a minute or two and feel no less hungry once you’ve finished although you’ve just consumed around 314 calories and 19.2g fat. You may then look around for something else to eat in search of satiety. 

So, if crisps are an example of an unsatisfying snack – what is an example of healthy snacks that fill you up? A great example is an apple and peanut butter. If you eat an apple with some peanut butter, you’ll get 285 calories and 16.3g fat. Along with your calories and healthy fat, you get slow-digesting protein and bulky fibre as well as vitamins and minerals. Your gut sends the correct signals to your brain that it’s full, and you’ll likely feel satisfied until dinner – and may even eat less during your evening meal.

What causes satiety?

Does a high satiety food need to be high in calories? Does protein increase satiety? Does fat make you full? Find out more below:

  • Protein 

Want to feel full without eating large amounts of food? Make sure the food you’re eating is high in protein. Protein digests slower than carbohydrate, meaning it stays in the stomach longer. Naturally, a fuller stomach = a more satiated stomach.

Also, when protein digests, it releases peptides. These peptides can signal to the brain that the stomach is getting full – thus curbing the appetite.3 

  • Fibre 

Fibre is low in calories but high in bulk. Fibre takes up space in your stomach, which causes your gut to send a chemical message to your brain that it’s getting full.

Further, in the process of digesting fibre, your stomach releases acetate, which also communicates with the brain that the stomach is becoming full. These signals promote a feeling of satiety – making our hunger subside.4 

  • Unsaturated fat

Unsaturated fats, such as those found in foods like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds That’s not to say all fats are satiating. 

Saturated fat and trans fat don’t have the same healthful effect. These types of fats raise levels of bad cholesterol, trigger inflammation in the body and lead to weight gain.

What is early satiety?

In a diet context, satiety is a good thing. Early satiety, however, refers to when you feel full a short time after starting to eat. This can be a sign of a medical condition.

What foods increase satiety? 9 of the best 

Choose foods which keep you full the longest, like the following:
  1. Beans and lentils - The cornerstone of countless filling, healthy meals, legumes like beans and lentils are packed with stomach-filling fibre. 
  2. Oats - You probably know that oats are one of the most satiating foods. A bowl of oatmeal made with milk can fill you up until lunchtime for fewer than 100 calories! 
  3. Eggs - Filling and delicious – eggs are a dieter’s dream. This is down to their high protein content – 6g of protein per egg. 
  4. Potatoes - Although they’re high in carbohydrates, potatoes are one of the most filling foods around. This could be down to their weight and bulk – which fill the stomach causing it to signal to the brain “I’m full!” Unfortunately, chips, crisps and fried wedges don’t count as a low-calorie, high-satiety food. Choose boiled potatoes for optimal filling benefits without the calories and fat. 
  5. Nuts and nut butters - Nuts are high in healthy omega-3 fats and protein – both of which promote satiety. It’s a good idea to pair nuts with another filling food that’s lower in calories to avoid eating too many nuts in a bid to feel full. Greek yoghurt or even a glass of milk are good choices. 
  6. Fish - A rich source of omega-3 fats as well as protein, fish is another food which scores highly on the satiety index. 5 Fish with vegetables is a perfect weight-loss friendly lunch or dinner which won’t have you reaching for snacks later. 
  7. Water - Not strictly a food, but ensuring you’re adequately hydrated can go a long way towards promoting satiety at mealtimes. When you drink a glass of water a few minutes before a meal, you’re less likely to overeat. It makes sense when you think about it – water takes up space in your stomach for zero calories which may otherwise be filled with calorie-dense food. This has been backed up by plenty of scientific studies – so start drinking water before meals today and reap the weight-loss benefits. 6 
  8. Soup - Warm, filling, and oh-so-comforting, soup is one of the best-known foods that make you feel full. Soup’s high water content is one of the main reasons it is satiating. The high-volume meal pushes against the stomach walls, triggering the chemical message to the brain that your stomach is well-fed. In case you were wondering, soup – especially a textured soup that’s not too smooth or watery – is much more satiating than plain water. This is because the stomach can recognise when there’s solid food among the water, meaning the mixture stays in the stomach longer during digestion than liquid alone. 7 
  9. Greek yoghurt - Greek yoghurt is high in protein, making it a satiating weight-loss food. It’s important that you choose Greek yoghurt and not Greek-style yoghurt. The difference is key – Greek yoghurt has been strained several times to create a thicker, more concentrated yoghurt which is protein-rich (10g protein per 100g). Greek-style yoghurt is runnier and lower in protein (around 4g protein per 100g) and won’t give you the same satiating effects.

What else affects satiety?

Also, the pairing of foods can affect your satiety levels. 

Eating an apple (complex carbohydrates and fibre) alone might satisfy you for an hour – but pairing the apple with peanut butter (protein and fibre) will cause an even greater level of satiety. 

This is because protein helps stabilise blood sugar, so pairing protein with a carbohydrate or sugary food (such as an apple) will slow the release of glucose into the blood. 8 This helps prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar – which is known to increase hunger and sugar cravings. 9

Satiating food pairings include: 
  • Greek yoghurt and fruit 
  • Fruit and nuts 
  • Oats and dried fruit 
  • Cottage cheese and rye bread 
  • Celery and cheese 
  • Olive oil and spinach 
  • Potatoes and lean meat

Last Updated: 17th December 2020
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