Chew, chew, chew, it is the thing to do!
The benefits of chewing one’s food cannot be emphasized enough, simply because it is so damn simple yet so freaking hard! Chewing does three main things to increase satiety:
- it signals the lowering of ghrelin levels (a ‘hunger’ hormone) and boosts satisfaction hormones CCK and GLP-1*, basically sending a message to the body that reads something like this: “We’ve got chow incoming! Turn down the alarms!”
- Chewing also increases our capacity to absorb nutrients by breaking down the cell walls and allowing enzymes to more efficiently do their job in preparing food for absorption in the digestive tract. If you get more nutrients per bite, you are likely to need fewer bites to satisfy your body!
- Additionally, chewing takes TIME. And the more time we spend with a meal the more time we have for satiety hormones to communicate to one another and finally to get to the brain, signaling fullness. We become more full on less food (more than 10% less, according to the study cited below)
When I first learned this concept I was told that chewing 50 times per bite was a good place to start (this came from Andrea Beaman, who learned it from macrobiotic teachings which advocated no less than 100 chews per bite!) I assumed I was chewing 20 times before swallowing and was shocked to discover I averaged about 9 chews per mouthful!! Bumping it up to 50 was like slow suicide; but I was able to increase it to 30 and noticed that I was full with 20 – 25% of my meal still sitting on my plate. It was a startling realization of how little food my body actually needs and how powerful those hormones can be when we use them to our advantage.
Takeaway: Chew each bite 30 – 40 times before swallowing.
Pump Up the Volume
About 10 years ago a book called Volumetrics came out, essentially stating that volume trumps calories when it comes to weight loss. This concept takes advantage of the fact that stomach size is limited, so you want to fill it with more bulk per calorie. This is not a new concept; in the 90’s Dr. Shapiro put out a fantastic book called Picture Perfect Weight Loss that gave a pictorial view of this concept (as shown here)
Here it’s easy to see which is going to be more satisfying. When choosing a volumous plate, reach for whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. The Volume factor is one reason why my fat loss clients are strongly encouraged to make every meal 50% fibrous, watery veggies. You know the kind – stir fry veggies and salad greens – vegetables which are very dense in vitamins, minerals and phytonutients and very low in calories. Vegetables give you the most bang for your buck for staying slim, boosting overall health, and combatting inflammation and aging.
Takeaway: Make sure produce shows up at every meal and snack.
If the fiber and volume of veggies fill you quickly, then protein provides the satiety staying power. Protein is a long-range satisfying food. It takes a long time for the body to break it down to utilize the amino acids which means it stays in the stomach longer and delays gastric emptying. Protein foods also boost dopamine levels in the brain, keeping us alert and mentally engaged and thus preventing snacking in the late afternoon in an attempt to revitalize lagging energy.