Navigating hunger can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to manage your weight.
But hunger is a natural sensation and an important mechanism — your body uses it to tell you that it needs more fuel.
In this article, you’ll learn more about your appetite and why it’s important to listen to your body.
You’ll also find out what to eat to feel fuller for longer.
With ZOE's personalized nutrition program, you can learn how to eat for your body and your long-term health goals.
Appetite suppression and weight loss
When you feel hungry, it's often a signal from your brain that you need food.
If your stomach is empty or your blood sugar levels dip, your brain and gut communicate to produce hunger. This line of communication is part of the gut-brain axis.
A number of hormones are involved in hunger, and one is ghrelin. Sometimes called “the hunger hormone,” ghrelin travels from your stomach to your brain and produces feelings of hunger.
While we’ll explore ways to ease hunger pangs, remember that they happen for a reason: Your body needs food. That’s why it’s important to listen to your hunger cues.
Rather than trying to “trick” your body into ignoring or suppressing hunger, we encourage you to focus more on the foods that keep you feeling nourished and full for longer.
If you balance your meals effectively and eat enough, you should feel full at the right times and hungry when your body knows that it needs more fuel.
Below are our tips for managing feelings of hunger.
1. Opt for fiber
Increasing your fiber intake may help you feel fuller for longer.
A review found that high-fiber foods like legumes, oats, and rye increased feelings of “satiety,” or fullness.
Oats contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which can increase feelings of fullness.
But not all fiber is created equal. In a review of 44 studies, researchers investigated 38 sources of fiber and how much they reduced appetite.
The team concluded that of the 38 fiber sources, only 39% reduced people’s appetite.
The most effective sources were beta-glucan, lupin kernel fiber, rye bran, whole grain rye, and a mixed high fiber diet.
In any case, getting enough fiber in your diet comes with many health benefits.
2. Pick some protein
Studies suggest that consuming protein produces greater feelings of fullness than consuming the same amount of energy from fats and carbs.
And according to the authors of one review, the protein source doesn’t seem to make a difference. So, opting for beans or nuts may be a good idea, as these are rich in protein and fiber.
However, there may be more to protein and appetite.
Protein is built from amino acids, and some researchers think that protein with specific amino acids — like arginine, lysine, and glutamic acid — might reduce appetite more than protein without these acids.
However, working out the details will require more research.
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3. Avoid blood sugar spikes
After eating, it’s normal for your blood sugar levels to rise. But we’re all different, and some people have much more pronounced responses.
Blood sugar spikes and crashes can make you feel hungry. So, preventing these big fluctuations may help some people avoid hunger pangs and cravings.
If this is you, it might mean that you eat more throughout the day than people with smaller blood sugar dips.
In fact, ZOE’s own research shows that people who have a significant blood sugar dip 2–4 hours after eating are more likely to feel hungry sooner.
4. Go for minimally processed foods
Researchers have found a number of links between heavily processed foods and the risk of chronic health conditions and weight gain.
These are sometimes called “ultra-processed” foods. They go through a certain amount of industrial processing and ultimately offer few valuable nutrients, if any. They do contain additives like preservatives, flavor enhancers, and food dyes.
One study found that participants who ate highly processed food took in an extra 500 calories a day, on average, compared with participants with a minimally processed diet.
The researchers also found that levels of ghrelin were lower when people ate minimally processed foods.
These foods include fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds.
Having a diet that includes plenty of minimally processed foods and healthy fats — like extra virgin olive oil and avocados — can be a great way to support your health. And it can also help you feel fuller for longer.
It’s natural to feel hungry, and it’s important to listen to your body's signals. There are also ways to help you feel fuller and more energetic for longer.
Foods rich in protein and fiber can promote a feeling of fullness so your hunger pangs take longer to appear.
For some people, big fluctuations in blood sugar can cause hunger soon after eating. So, controlling your blood sugar levels may help.
Researchers have shown that eating a lot of highly processed foods leads to eating more and feeling hungry sooner, compared with eating less processed foods.
So, filling your plate with foods that are minimally processed can help you control your hunger levels and support your long-term health.
With the ZOE at-home test, you can learn how your blood sugar and blood fat levels respond to what you eat and which microbes live in your gut. With our personalized nutrition program, you can eat for your body and your long-term goals.
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Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: An inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake. Cell Metabolism. (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7946062/
Where to find leucine in food and how to feed elderly with sarcopenia in order to counteract loss of muscle mass: Practical advice. Frontiers in Nutrition. (2021). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7874106/