Nutrition can get overly complicated and overwhelming. Carbs, fat, protein… good? bad? how much? What about intermittent fasting? Or is it better to eat 87 times a day? To count calories or not to count calories? So complicated! Fortunately, to eat a healthy diet you don’t have to be a nutrition expert.
When it comes to nutrition, in many cases the simplest ideas are most important.
Which brings me to… Satiation (say-see-aye-shun). Satiation, although sounds like a fancy word, simply means feeling full. So think back to dinner last night — You ate. You felt full (satiated). You stopped eating.
Not surprisingly, satiation kicks in when your stomach is literally full of food. That food presses on stretch receptors in your stomach and those stretch receptors tell your brain you’ve had enough and should stop eating.
So how does this relate to healthy eating and weight management?
Since the feeling of fullness depends on filling your stomach up, it comes down to the volume of food you eat. When someone goes on a diet the usual strategy is to restrict portion sizes and eat less (hence less calories). Although some people have superhero-like willpower and dedication, these restrictions will eventually fail. Our bodies are designed to eat until we are full and no amount of will power will change that… at least not in the long-term.
Excessively processed foods (chips, cereals, crackers, granola bars, white bread & pasta) are often loaded with calories and lacking in fiber and water. So constantly filling your stomach up with these foods means lots and lots of calories. What’s the result? You guessed it – weight gain.
There’s a similar effect when you constantly fill your stomach up with animal products (meat, dairy, eggs). These foods are also calorie-dense and lacking in fiber and water. Hence it takes more calories to reach satiation. More calories = weight gain.
Now the up side. Something crazy awesome happens when you fill your stomach with unprocessed plant foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes). These foods are loaded with fiber and water and have limited calories. So it takes less calories to reach satiation resulting in… you guessed it – weight loss!
For comparisons sake:
- vegetables = 100 calories
- fruits = 200 calories
- beans = 600 calories
- salmon = 920 calories
- lean ground beef = 975 calories
- pizza = 1200 calories
- cheese = 1,600 calories
- fruit loops = 1,700 calories
- potato chips = 2,430 calories
…notice a pattern? The foods listed at the top are going to provide more bang for your buck (lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals, water with few calories). The foods listed towards the bottom are ripping you off (very little fiber, vitamins, minerals, water and lots of calories).
For any individual who would like to reach and maintain a healthy weight, what foods should primarily be eaten? Since restricting portions sizes in the long-term is not feasible, the best choice is to choose nutrient dense, lower calorie foods (veggies, fruits, whole grains, beans… plants). These foods allow us to eat as much as the body desires, without consuming an excessive amount of calories. No portion restriction necessary!
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