Constant hunger pangs can be a nightmare, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or commit to healthier eating habits. A fluctuating appetite can also negatively affect your mood.
Luckily, there are ways to tame even the most brutal of appetites. What’s more, all of these are 100% natural.
1. Drink more water
Research shows that humans often confuse hunger with dehydration, which could lead to unnecessary snacking. The solution? Drink plenty of water during the day instead of munching on snacks. This will keep you hydrated and will reduce hunger pangs without adding calories.
Importantly, steer clear of water flavoured with artificial sweeteners, as these can stimulate the appetite. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, add a few lemon or orange slices, or berries for flavour.
2. Eat more protein
If you’d like to suppress your appetite and lose weight, a protein-rich diet may just be what you need.
Dietary protein enhances satiety and promotes weight loss, according to a study by Rachel Batterham and colleagues, published in Cell Metabolism. When we consume protein, hunger-suppressing and appetite-regulating hormones are released. Protein also helps us to sustain energy.
Try to eat healthy protein at most meals, e.g. fish, eggs, poultry (without the skin), venison, pork (without the fat), legumes and beans. Eat red meat less often and make a point of having some protein for breakfast.
3. Avoid sugar and sweeteners
Sugar may increase appetite and hunger, which could lead to overeating, according to research from the University of California.
When we consume sugar or foods high in sugar, e.g. sweets, cookies, corn flakes or white bread, our blood-sugar levels spike and then drop almost instantly. This imbalance makes us hungry again after a few hours.
Your best bet is to go for low-GI carbohydrates, such as low-GI brown bread, oatmeal, sweet potato, apple and pear, and to always pair carbohydrates with a healthy fat (e.g. nuts, peanut butter or avocado), a lean protein (e.g. eggs) or a low-fat or fat-free dairy food (e.g. a cup of milk or yoghurt). This will keep your blood-sugar levels steady, keeping your hunger pangs under control.
4. Eat more fibre
Foods high in fibre are known to boost fullness and suppress appetite. Fibre-rich foods also lower levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone insulin.
Since high-fibre foods generally take longer to eat, it gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry. You’ll quickly feel satisfied and will stay satiated for a number of hours. Fibre also takes longer to leave the stomach, adding to the feeling of satiety without adding calories.
Meet your fibre needs by eating a wide variety of whole-grain products, fruits and vegetables (raw, if possible), high-fibre cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Read: 8 misconceptions about high fibre
5. Get enough sleep
Insufficient sleep causes levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin to rise and may also make you more insulin resistant. The result? Cravings throughout the day, and a greater risk for type 2 diabetes.
To keep the hunger pangs at bay, make sure you get at least 7 – 8 hours of good-quality sleep every night.
6. Add more healthy fats to your diet
Contrary to popular belief, fat isn’t the enemy. Like protein, healthy plant fats can also diminish appetite.
Good fats contain oleic acid, which produces earlier and increased levels of hormones in the digestive system that suppress appetite. In this way, it induces a general feeling of fullness and satiety.
Foods high in oleic acid include avocados, olive oil and almonds.
7. Eat slowly
Take your time when you’re eating, as eating too fast may cause you to overindulge.
Keep in mind that it takes at least 20-30 minutes for your gut hormones to kick in and signal fullness in the brain. Eating slowly helps you to feel full and satisfied and makes sure you don’t even think about having seconds.
Also be “in the moment” when you’re eating. Distractions, such as the television, may cause you to eat more without realising it. Take time, relax, and enjoy a meal with friends and family.
Various studies have shown that moderate to intense workouts affect the brain’s appetite control centre. Levels of appetite-stimulating hormones are lowered during physical activity and appetite-suppressing hormones are activated.
Exercise is also a great distraction. The more you exercise, the less time you’ll spend eating or thinking about food.
9. Go for solids over liquids
In a recent study by Mieke J.I. Martens and co-workers, published in Obesity, it was found that solid meals are more effective in suppressing hunger and the desire to eat than similar liquid meals.
Solid food substances require more chewing time and take longer to digest. This helps to make you feel more satisfied, suppressing your appetite.
10. Eat regularly
Eat small meals at least every 2 to 3 hours and never skip meals. Eating frequently decreases your appetite and balances blood-sugar levels. This will help diminish cravings and will keep your energy levels – and mood – in check throughout the day.