We all want to be physically fit and we know it well that we should exercise and eat healthy foods for that. But there is a difference between knowing the right things and doing them. Food, especially junk food is hard to give up. Whenever we are bored or have nothing to do, we think we are hungry and end up eating anything and everything that we find without thinking about the calories of that food. And when we do try to cut down our calorie intake or the amount of food we eat, our appetite usually increases and we end up overeating. If you really want to get fit, you will have to understand your hunger patterns. One major step towards improving your diet is to understand the science behind hunger – how it occurs, what are its different types, and how to control it naturally.
Types of Hunger
Hunger is controlled mainly by three hormones in the brain: insulin, ghrelin, and leptin. Insulin is the hormone which brings the digested food from the blood to the cells to be converted into energy. When there is a lack of food to be transported to the cells, insulin signals the brain, resulting in the release of ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone that causes the body to feel the sensation of hunger. Ghrelin signals the brain that you need food to eat. When you eat the food, the leptin hormone is triggered. Leptin is the hormone that controls hunger. However, in cases of overeating, the leptin signal starts to be ignored by the hypothalamus in the brain, causing you to be hungry even after eating, which eventually leads to obesity and obesity-related trauma.
There are broadly two types of hunger:
1. Physical Hunger
When your body experiences a deficit of sugar, you might feel hungry. This is referred to as physical hunger. This type of hunger should be addressed with food so that you can take care of the deficit of energy in the body. Thus, physical hunger is triggered by the release of ghrelin, which informs the brain that there is an actual deficit of food in the body.
2. Mental Hunger
Mental hunger is more of a serious situation. Here, there is no actual shortage of food in the body. When you experience mental hunger, your brain is convinced that you are hungry and you want to eat more, even if you are full. This is seen when you eat fat-rich diets as compared to foods rich in other nutrients. This form of hunger seems to stem from the ignorance of leptin by the brain rather than due to the ghrelin release.
10 Science-based Ways to Suppress Hunger
Here, we will discuss steps in detail on how to suppress hunger, especially mental hunger.
1. Eat Protein-rich Foods
Include a variety of proteins in your food has multiple advantages. It will make you feel full faster and would prevent you from overeating. Eating protein-rich foods will also help you gain weight in all the good areas. Consuming ample protein-rich food will increase your muscle mass and help you reduce the overall body weight, making you fitter and fuller in the process. By following a high-protein diet, you’d also be able to keep your fat and sugar intake in check and lose weight in the process (by reducing the overall calorie intake per meal). Ideally, proteins should form at least 25-30% of your diet at all times.
2. Drink Coffee
Drinking coffee has a strong effect on promoting the feeling of fullness in the body. Coffee is also seen to improve metabolism in general, making one more active throughout the day. Studies show that drinking coffee releases Peptide YY or PYY, a hormone that is produced in the intestines which helps one feel full after an adequate diet. Surprisingly, the effects have been seen to be more effective in terms of decaffeinated coffee, where the effects last up to 3 hours and more after consumption. Therefore, drinking coffee, especially decaffeinated coffee is one of the best ways to keep your hunger levels in control.
3. Eat Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains fewer quantities of complex sugars. It not only diminishes the appetite but also reduces the mind’s cravings for sugar or sweet food items. The stearic acid in dark chocolate helps in slowing down the process of digestion, hence making you feel full for a longer period of time.
4. Eat in Smaller Plates
Eating in smaller plates can help you combat mental hunger. When you eat in small plates, you will probably consume food in smaller portions, i.e., you will eat according to your appetite. Eating smaller portions of food in small plates which appears to be full might give you a feeling of contentment. On average, a person who eats in smaller plates consumes fewer calories than a person who eats in large plates.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Your sleeping patterns can affect your eating patterns – and yes, that’s true! If you don’t get good sleep, your appetite may increase. When your brain is convinced that it is spending more energy than required to keep itself awake at the time it is supposed to sleep, you might experience mental hunger. Eating food becomes a reward mechanism for the brain to stay awake. A lack of sleep increases the appetite by 24% and decreases the production of hunger control hormones by around 26%.
6. Try Aerobics
Doing aerobics or resistance exercise can help you get fit faster. It can help you build muscles and reduce the fat stored in your body. Practising aerobics or resistance exercises are known to reduce the activation of the brain regions that are linked to food cravings. It can also help control the production of hunger-inducing hormones like ghrelin. This helps in increasing the feeling of fullness and reducing the appetite naturally.
7. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fats such as cod liver oil has been seen to increase the levels of leptin in the body remarkably. This helps in controlling hunger and can keep your mental hunger in check. Therefore, a meal rich in omega-3 fatty acids can make you feel full for longer.
8. Visualise the Food You Wish to Eat
Picturing yourself eating the foods you crave to eat can also help in reducing the cravings for a particular food. Visualising eating your food can trick your mind into believing that you have eaten that food and prevent you from actually eating it.
9. Spice Up Your Meals with Ginger
Ginger has a lot of health benefits, like reducing nausea and muscle inflammation. Another benefit of consuming ginger is that it helps hunger and appetite in general. Other spices like peppers contain capsaicin, which increases the feeling of fullness and influence the rate at which calories are burned after a meal.
10. Eat Fiber-rich Foods
Last but not least, eating fibre-rich foods can also suppress your hunger. Fibre-rich foods can help you make feel full for long. Fibres ferment in the bowel to produce short-chain fatty acids which increases the feeling of fullness. This effect has been dramatically seen with the consumption of viscous fibres than non-viscous ones. You should prefer food items with viscous fibres like pectins (pears, apples), beta-glucan (oats, barley) and guar gum (soy, soy cheese) to derive optimum benefits from fibrous foods.
We hope the above-mentioned ways will help you control your hunger and ensure that you are eating sufficiently and not excessively. However, do make sure you talk to your doctor before making any major changes in your diet or trying new hunger-control methods.