Fullness (satiety), digestively speaking, is the signal that tells us we've had enough to eat and that more food into the stomach is both unnecessary and even discomforting. So when we are naturally full, we feel complete and whole. Everything is fine. Job well done.
Everything would be perfect if this feeling of fullness lasted long enough to make sure we only received the necessary calories to keep a normal healthy weight. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Some theories state that we are genetically programmed to store some fat in our bodies, something that makes very much sense as a matter of survival. To regulate this mechanism we must eat exactly what we need. Less or more and the mechanism kicks in.
When we ask the question: Why do we eat? A simple answer would be that we eat because the body craves nutrients which we need at the moment. I call this a simple answer because that is the way animals eat. But we humans forget that we are natural animals. We have artificial needs and a different psychological make up that might explain the reason why we eat even in the absence of hunger, and why many of us choose the kind of low nutritious tasty foods we do.
Psychological and sociological factors play a very important role in the way we eat. And the obvious solution would be to be constantly aware of what and why we eat, and even sacrifice and eat less so we can get rid of the extra weight. But this is easier said than done. What is essential, is to understand the many factors behind the feeling of satiety, and use these factors to our advantage. Here I list the most important among them.
The act of chewing (mastication) influences directly the feeling of fullness. It is thought that feedback from proprioceptive nerves in teeth and the temporomandibular joints govern the creation of neural pathways, which in turn determine duration and force of individual muscle activation. The motor program continuously adapts to changes in food type or occlusion.
Most of us understand the importance of chewing thoroughly what we eat. One of the problems of food consistency in many modern diets is that they demand too little or no mastication whatsoever.
The solution is to choose foods with structure, and then make a conscious effort to chew each mouthful at least 20 times. This is based on serious research results which prove without a doubt that people who chew longer, eat less, have better digestion and retain the feeling of satiety longer.
When you are full, you are full. As simple as that. An empty stomach contains about half a deciliter. A full stomach can easily reach one and a half liter. How long food stays in the stomach would then have much to say when it comes to fullness. Foods that bind water delay the time food is in the stomach. An example is porridge. The cooking process binds water to oats, making it a physical fullness meal. Another good example is fiber. Besides the fact that we must chew it, it is also a structure component which gives volume. Vegetables contain lots of water and fiber, so one more great reason to eat lots of them.
The fullness factor
Caloric density alone is not a reliable predictor of satiety, and it overlooks many enjoyable foods that would make wonderful additions to your diet. What you need is a better way to predict satiety. After studying the results of numerous satiety studies, NutritionData used an advanced multivariate analysis of the existing data to create a new mathematical formula that predicts satiety from the nutrient content of a given food or recipe.
The Fullness Factor and the Glycemic Index are both non dimensional ratings which are used to predict your body's response to particular foods.
Protein is the macronutrient that gives the longest lasting satiety feeling. This has to do with the amount of time protein must remain in the stomach. Fat comes second most probably because it can't mix easily with water. But the problem with fat is that is very calorie rich, so we should only eat a third of our calories from fat. Carbohydrate on the other hand, is the macronutrient that spends less time in the stomach. Very important then to keep carbohydrate intake at bay, and eat those with high fiber high nutritional value.
Other articles in this series:
- Overweight and obesity
- Mixing macronutrients
- The fullness factor; Self Nutrition Data
- Eating slower to fight obesity; James J. Kenney
- Mindful Chewing; Daniel Koontz
- The fat factor; Birger Svihus
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