Plagued by midnight ice cream binges? Grabbing a bag of chips to beat that after-lunch blood-sugar crash? Don’t blame your willpower; blame your breakfast. What you eat—and when—can help you curb cravings and keep your appetite in check, a number of studies have shown, and sometimes it’s not for the reasons you think. You could be deficient in certain minerals, and it may be that too many toxic chemicals are building up on your system. Whatever it is, we’ve dug up six foods that will help you fight off a ravenous appetite and keep your beach-ready body all year long.
Chickpeas are full of protein and fiber, which delay your body’s digestion of nutrients. When digestion slows down, it takes longer for blood-sugar-spiking carbohydrates to get into your bloodstream, and that keeps hunger at bay. Don’t fancy chickpeas? You’ll get the same benefit from any bean you do like, according to Purdue University scientists.
Try This: Chicken-Chickpea Harira
Photo: Mitch Mandel
White wine, red wine, balsamic, or champagne—eating vinegar with a predinner salad can keep you from overeating and craving dessert. The acetic acid in this flavorful condiment deactivates amylase, an enzyme that turns carbohydrates into sugar. As a result, your body will digest those carbs you’re eating more slowly, and you’re less likely to crave that bowl of ice cream before you go to bed.
Curb cravings with candy? It is possible! According to a study in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes, a 3.5-ounce serving of dark chocolate can leave you feeling full and actually less desirous of other junk food, thanks to its intense flavor. Dark chocolate also has a higher content of cocoa butter, which your body digests more slowly than the butter fat found in milk chocolate. That curbs your appetite and allows you to feel full for a longer period of time.
Super Yum: Fudgy Dark Chocolate-Raspberry Brownies
Photo: Thomas MacDonald
Swig a glass of milk in the morning, and you’re less likely to overeat at lunch, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In fact, the milk drinkers in the study ate 55 fewer calories at lunch than people who opted for fruit juice. What it is in milk that helps stave off hunger isn’t clear, says Michael Zemel, Ph.D., director of the University of Tennessee Nutrition Institute and the author of several other studies looking at dairy’s affect on weight management. It could be protein, it could be the fat content, or it could be the way that calcium interacts with your hormones. Regardless, drinking milk in the morning and eating dairy products throughout the day can do wonders for your waistline, he says.
Photo: Thomas MacDonald
Food cravings are often generated by a lack of chromium, a mineral that carries glucose (blood sugar) into your cells where it’s burned for energy. Thanks to our heavy reliance on food processing, which lowers chromium levels found naturally in things like whole grains, pepper, and vegetables, many people are chromium-deficient. And that can make you hungry. Broccoli has the highest chromium content of any food—eat a half-cup at dinner and you’ll get nearly half of what you need in a day—but the mineral also exists in trace amounts in nearly all fruits and vegetables.
Keep Reading: Plant Broccoli Now for a Glorious Fall Garden
Photo: Mitch Mandel
Thanks to years of toxic chemical pollution and runoff into our waterways, most freshwater fish and many varieties of ocean fish have become contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POPs), a class of chemicals that never degrade in the environment, such as the pesticide DDT and the now-banned flame retardants PCBs. Those toxic pollutants may cause neurological damage in the region of the brain that controls mood and appetite, damage that in animal studies has led rats to develop a subconscious drive to self-medicate with high-fat foods. The most problematic POPs have now been banned in the U.S., but they're still used in other countries. The easiest way to avoid them, if you love seafood, is to consume fish low on the food chain; these chemicals build up in fat and exist in higher amounts in large predatory fish like swordfish and shark. Stick with tasty sardines, which are omega-3 powerhouses owing to the fact that they survive on sea vegetables and algae.
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