Why do certain foods make you feel full, while others leave you hungry for more? If portion- control is difficult for you, the key lies in the concepts of nutrient-density and satiety. These rather impenetrable terms are actually just fancy names for some commonsense food science, and working nutrient-dense foods into your diet is integral to maintaining a healthy weight, so let’s break them down.
Nutrient-density is a way of measuring the number of nutrients (not calories) in a given volume of food. Nutrients include things like vitamins, minerals, fiber, iodine, amino acids, proteins, and fat—in short, the essential ingredients for normal human growth and development. Usually, we use the weight of any given portion of food as our baseline way of measuring how much we’re consuming, though nutrient-density is applicable to liquids as well.
Satiety is a way of describing how full certain foods make us feel. While satiety isn’t something that is empirically measured, we can determine how full certain foods make us feel by observing how long it takes for us to feel hungry after eating.
To use an example of a nutrient-dense food compared to a nutrient-deficient one, we can compare an orange to a bag of potato chips. While the number of calories provided by an orange and a bag of chips is comparable, the orange contains fiber, vitamin C, and calcium, which are notably lacking in the bag of chips. Therefore, for the same amount of calories, we can obtain far more nutrients at the same time by eating the orange.
It should go without saying, but in general, leafy, whole plants will be the most nutrient-dense foods, while heavily-processed grains and sugars as well as most meats will be the least nutrient-dense. Now, this does not necessarily mean these other foods are inherently unhealthy, but if you’re trying to get as much “bang for your buck” as possible, certain foods are simply more “efficient” at conveying the nutrients we need. You would have to eat far more meat and potatoes—and consequently more calories– to get the same amount of nutrients as eating some fresh spinach or kale.
Speaking of kale, it’s considered a super-food for a reason: kale is considered the most nutrient- dense food on the planet because it is overflowing with vitamins and minerals, much more so than even other vegetables. Spinach, peppers, and legumes like beans are also high up on the list, while strawberries and blueberries rank highest in nutrient-density among the fruits.
How does satiety tie in to all this? Basically, the more nutrient-dense a food is, the more likely it is to keep you satisfied for longer. When your body receives the nutrients it naturally needs, it only signals that you are hungry when you need more; however, if your diet consists of low- nutrient foods, you will live in a state of near-constant hunger despite consuming larger quantities of food. By integrating nutrient-dense foods into your diet, you can consume less food and fewer calories for more quality nutrients.
In short, nutrient-dense foods provide much more nutrition with far fewer calories, thereby keeping you full longer and decreasing the amount of food you’ll naturally want to consume.
Want to learn more? …join us for Cooking with the Kayyem’s on Friday August 1, 2014 at 6pm at SICFIT Scottsdale. Come hungry and ready to try some yummy, nutritious and healthy food. Coaches at SICFIT Scottsdale are there to guide you through your health and fitness goals. Refining your diet and re-learning how to eat is one of the most difficult tasks, but once mastered, better health leads to a better life. So what are you waiting for? Compare your food choices, read those labels and make better choices.
Set up a nutrition cosultation with a Coach today 480-922-3253 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.