What makes a person feel full is not just how much food they’ve eaten, but also the type of food. Now scientists have attempted to rank a variety of foods for how well they can subjectively and objectively make a person feel full.
It is a sad state of life for many in Western countries that the abundance of food available to us, 24 hours a day, is driving weight gain and subsequent medical problems. It is also perhaps a sign of this privilege that researchers are looking for ways to categorise food based on how it can make a person feel full to help curb overeating.
Foods differ in their potential to cause satiety and this can be influenced by the energy (kilojoule) density and the presence of different macronutrients. Low energy dense foods such as salads and fruits generally have a higher satiety effect compared to a similar amount of high energy dense foods such as biscuits or chocolate. Foods higher in protein appear to be more satiating than carbohydrates and fat, while fibre deserves a special mention for its ability to increase feelings of fullness.
There are various laboratory studies that have attempted to objectively rank different foods according to their satiety value. But now researchers have explored more subjective measures of satiety by getting consumers to express their views. Subjective measures of satiety allow for inclusion of factors such as taste and palatability without being overly fixated on nutrient content.
Involving 1,127 participants, an online survey asked for consumers’ views on a range of subjective and objective measures of satiety of 100 different foods. Each food was presented as an image, and questions were asked about its perceived energy content, healthiness, palatability, macronutrient composition, cost and many other factors.
After correcting for the perceived energy content of a food, perceived satiety was associated with lower energy dense foods, lower fat percentage, higher protein content, and higher cost. Perceived satiety was also associated with greater healthiness, weight management, frequency of consumption and greater control of over eating.
Putting all this into context to the actual foods themselves, it was foods such as broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and rice cakes that had the highest satiety value for minimal kilojoules. It should be no surprise that vegetables feature prominently in satiety rankings due to their mostly low energy density and high fibre content.
Foods ranked lowest for satiety included chocolate, pastries, confectionery and ice cream.
What it all means
There are a myriad of ways to rank foods based on their nutrient, health or satiety value. The common theme among all these methods though is that fruit and vegetables come out on top, and discretionary treat foods high in fat or sugar come out near the bottom. It is making the small sustainable dietary changes to have more of the first, and less of the second, that is the biggest challenge for many.