When it comes to choosing the right foods for dieting, there is so much information out there that for the average person, it’s about near impossible to figure out what is actually healthy versus unhealthy. For every article saying “XYZ” food is healthy, there is another article talking about how bad it is for you. If we break it down, what we are looking for in food that is going to help us in weight loss is something that fills us up, yet is low in calories. That is where I’d like to present a new way at looking at food, which is the satiety index. I can’t lay claim to inventing this or anything, as it has been researched and talked about plenty, but it definitely has not hit the mainstream media outlets as a factor when it comes to food choice. The satiety index is a new twist on the glycemic index, which has been used for years on how to rate a food as healthy, but unfortunately has been shown to not be the best of tools. Without getting too deep into why the glycemic index is not optimal, let me just leave you with this; a sweet potato is considered a high glycemic index food (“unhealthy” according to the glycemic index), but Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is a low glycemic food (“healthy”).
Below is a chart from a study in 1995 (1) that took a multitude of foods and came to a rating system for their satiety. They used 240 calorie servings of each food and then continually gauged the satiety level over a 2 hour period to come to these ratings.
Not all foods that are commonly eaten are on here, but it will give you a very good idea of what is more filling versus less filling. Two things that can immediately be seen is that the protein sources and non-refined carbohydrates are the most filling foods, which falls right in line with what most would consider healthy foods. As we get into the refined grains and the hyper-palatable foods (refined carbs+fats) you will see the downward trend in satiety, which is exactly why these foods are so often over-eaten and considered bad. They first and foremost are not very filling, and second they are very tasty, which is a recipe for disaster when it comes to moderation and portion control. Even though foods such as green vegetables and chicken are not listed on here, I would be very confident in saying that they would fall in line with the higher satiety proteins and non-refined carbohydrate options.
So using this chart and personal inferences we can pull away some conclusions and application for what would be the best foods when it comes to a diet plan to lose weight. We can see that lean protein sources combined with a non-refined carbohydrate is going to equal a very filling meal. If we feel full, we are much less likely to overeat, crave more, and in general eat too many calories. In creating the perfect meal we would also include a side of green vegetables to increase the satiety, yet add very few calories. Taking these conclusions, below I have put together a list of optimal food options to pick from to create a filling and healthy meal.
Proteins: Fish, Chicken, Red Meat, or in general any lean meat source.
Non-Refined Carbohydrate: Sweet Potato, Baked Potato, Fruits, and Oatmeal
Vegetables: Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Green Peppers, Asparagus, and Carrots
This is not an all encompassing list, but rather a list I have concluded with based off of the findings in this study and my own personal inferences on the information provided. Hopefully the satiety index is a tool that will help make sense of all the nutritional information out there, what is right versus what is wrong, and simplify it into an easier way of thinking.