Want to lose weight without getting hangry? Try adding a splash of hot sauce to your lunch.
Researchers at Quebec’s Laval University say that the best weight-loss diet for your body may mean filling your plate with foods shown to be highly satiating, such as spicy peppers, water-packed fruits and vegetables, fiber-filled whole grains, proteins such as eggs and yogurt, and healthy sources of fat.
At a glance, these foods seem like your average — if slightly random — list of healthy hits. But registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, says they all have a secret superpower: the ability to keep you satisfied, in different ways.
Bazilian has extensively researched satiety, or what it means for the body to be full and satisfied. Some filling foods for weight loss, she tells The Post, “impact the chemistry of satiety through hormones and compounds that are released in response to those foods.” Others use “physical factors, like thickness and volume, to help stimulate stretch receptors in the stomach and give us the feeling of being satisfied.”
The result? “An unconscious lowering of the fork, without having to call on . . . unreliable willpower.”
A common mistake — for dieters and nondieters — is confusing satisfaction with fullness, Bazilian says. That misconception can create problems if you’re trying to lose weight.
“We love the soap-opera drama [of saying], ‘Ugh, I’m stuffed!’ ” she says. But you shouldn’t feel that way after any meal, says Bazilian, and especially not if you’re trying to slim down.
Instead, she says, what you want is to feel “non-drama satisfied” — full, but also able to “get up from the table and take a walk, or go back to work.”
Loading up on satiating foods during meals can also prevent overeating later on. The Laval study had a group of overweight men in their 40s adopt healthy diets.
Half of the group ate according to Canada’s Food Guide (similar to the USDA’s dietary guidelines), while the rest ate meals designed to satiate. The goal was to “promote a decrease in energy intake without restriction,” says researcher Angelo Tremblay, Ph.D., who worked on this 2017 study. “To make it a natural outcome that is reached without significant effort.”
It was a success on both fronts: The group of men who ate satiating diets lost more weight than the control group and were less likely to drop out of the study than those who ate according to government guidelines.
Unlike trendy ketogenic or plant-based diets, which require restriction, a high-satiety diet might actually be more enjoyable than unrestricted eating, says Tremblay. Early on in its research, his team had participants eat either a meal of fettuccine carbonara, or a vegetable-heavy chicken stir-fry of the same size.
One would assume that a rich, fatty carbonara would be more satisfying and leave eaters fuller for longer, but the opposite was true, says Tremblay: Those who ate the stir-fry ate less later in the day. Moreover, it “was perceived as more palatable” — in non-science speak, tasty and pleasurable — by participants than the creamy pasta.
‘Recognize that eating is more than just putting food down the old pie-hole.’
The best part of these results, says Bazilian, is that focusing on filling foods doesn’t require much of a shift from your average diet. “It’s not asking you to go head-over-heels in a different direction than what you’re already doing,” she says.
Although it’s true that the Laval study participants consumed prescribed percentages of the big three macronutrients — about 30 percent of their calories came from fat, 20 percent from protein and 50 percent from carbohydrates — that plate breakdown is pretty typical. Scientists think the participants’ secret to success was simply prioritizing satisfaction when they ate.
To help each bite really stick, Bazilian recommends taking the time to really focus on your food and enjoy it.
“Flavor is really the aroma, the texture, the taste, the look of the food,” she says. “Sit down at a table, or turn you chair away from the screen. Recognize that eating is more than just putting food down the old pie-hole.”
Ready to break the “I’m starving!”-“I’m stuffed” cycle? Get full on less by working these research-tested weight-loss tips and foods into your diet.
Water-rich fruits and vegetables
The best fruits and vegetables for weight loss have high water density, the scientists explain.
“Have a soup and/or salad every day,” Bazilian says, since the water-rich broth and vegetables will signal fullness. Summer is prime melon season, and cucumbers and tomatoes can make for a satisfying — and binge-preventing — pre-dinner snack.
Hot sauce for weight loss? Yes, indeed: The Laval study emphasized spicy peppers specifically, because the capsaicin-rich vegetables have been shown to both boost the metabolism and prevent future overeating.
Bazilian points to another recent study about spicy food and weight loss. “They put red pepper on the previous meal, and then they gave [participants] all-you-can-eat pizza,” she says. “People ate significantly less pizza after a meal with red pepper.”
Tremblay’s lab had similar results. “We prepared a small entree with 6 grams of Korean red pepper in the experimental entree, and only red salsa in the control entree,” he says. “We measured ad-lib intake and macronutrient intake, as well as for the subsequent meal. There was a decrease of about 200 kilocalories following the intake of the Korean pepper entree.”
Studies out of the Netherlands, he adds, have found that capsaicin triggers a thermogenic effect in the body, which leads to increased calorie burn. He suggests adding a pepper-based sauce, such as Tabasco, to meals, and incorporating spicy peppers into cooking.
Craving that full-stomach feeling without the subsequent crash? Reach for a bowl of oatmeal for weight-loss help. Basically, the oats use water weight to trick you into feeling satisfied: They “hold onto water and become more viscous and thicker,” says Bazilian. “It literally fills us up.”
“Greek yogurt is high in both protein and water, and water can help satiate,” says Bazilian. Plus, some studies have linked foods containing calcium to satiety. Pair yogurt — the plain kind is healthiest — with fruit for a double-dose of volume, or with oat-packed granola for a hit of filling fiber.
“At least one study has shown that overweight women consume less food for a full day after they ate foods with eggs,” says Bazilian. So add a few healthy egg recipes to your arsenal (try whipping up a vegetable frittata or adding a hardboiled egg to a lunchtime salad). Douse with pepper-rich hot sauce for extra weight-loss benefits.
The subjects’ diets didn’t skimp on unprocessed fats. Bazilian suggests opting for avocado, which brings healthy-fat benefits and adds creaminess to a meal. “Remember, texture is a part of satiety,” she says. “There’s a psychological piece.” The fat also helps to slow the release of sugar into the blood, she says, which can head off a post-meal crash.