Switching to a plant-based diet is not only great for your body, but also great for the planet! With that said, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few hurdles to overcome when transitioning. One such hurdle is reaching the point of feeling full. This isn’t caused by any lack of nutritional support from a plant-based diet, but more due to the fact that the Standard American diet relies on a good amount of meat, dairy, and processed foods — which are rich in added sugars, refined grains, and trans fats — to fill your stomach. Unfortunately, many of these foods actually have addictive-like qualities. For instance, dairy contains an ingredient called casein, which is also lovingly referred to as “dairy crack.” Not to mention those added sugars! We all know how addictive unnatural sugar can be!
If you’re filling your plate with real, whole foods — such as natural fruits, veggies, and grains — and cut out the processed foods and animal products, you may find that you’re craving levels skyrocket. This is completely normal and part of the process! Of course, it tends to throw off your ability to separate between being satiated, feeling full, or craving a food item you no longer are consuming.
The cure? It’s all about choosing the right plant-based foods to encourage satiety and help curb those cravings!
Plant-based eating does wonders for the human body! Not only is it rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds, but plant-based foods won’t make you crave them unless your body needs them meaning you’ll only eat until you are actually full! With that said, there are some plant-based foods that are better at this than others.
While every human body is different, when it comes to satiety there are a few things we share in common across the board. First off, satiety is only one part of the “entire appetite control system,” which involves a whole slew of processes from chewing and generating saliva to the release of certain hormones to your digestive system.
For our purposes, we’re going with the most straight forward definition of satiety: “the state of satiety is reached by consuming an adequate amount of food in a specific period of time.” This time period is generally “initiated before significant food deprivation is experienced” and ends “before nutrients are delivered to the system.” Basically, your body tells you to eat before you’re starving and to stop before you’ve overeaten.
At least in a perfect world, this is how it would work. Unfortunately, we have lots of factors playing against us these days from the ease and accessibility of food to man-made processed ingredients in our foods that wreak havoc with these biological systems.
A Little About Satiation Biology
Your satiation-hunger system is incredibly complex, “engaging a number of tissues, organs, hormones, and neural circuits throughout the body in a feedback loop between the brain and peripheral tissues.”
There is sensory-specific satiation, referring to exposure of tastes and smells of food causing satiety to both increase and decrease based on said exposure. Then there’s the link between “satiety-signaling pathways from the gastrointestinal tract to the CNS,” the central nervous system — which involves “more than 20 different regulatory peptide hormones,” that are “released in the gastrointestinal system.” These widely-researched hormones are known to be involved in “the regulation of food intake and are sensitive to the gut nutrient content and composition.”
With that said, out of these 20 hormones, there are four standouts when it comes to signaling satiety: CCK, GLP-1, peptide tyrosine (PYY), and GIP.” Let’s narrow this down just a bit to cholecystokinin (CCK).
Cholecystokinin not only stimulates the pancreas and the brain during food consumption, but it is also one of the most powerful hormones that affect meal termination. Basically, it’s one of the hormones that tell you you’re done. CCK is also involved in the feeling of satiety by relating the “mechanical distension of abdominal walls, in particular the gastric wall,” and the “presence of nutrients in the intestine” to the brain to let you know that you’ve done what needs to be done!
Of course, on top of hormones and senses, you’ve got all those lovely organs that work to break down food, store it for energy and other biological needs, and excrete what’s not needed. This means that other, larger parts of the body are also involved in signaling your brain for when you need more nutrients and when you’re satiated. These include the “gut, liver, adipose, and other peripheral tissues,” which “inform the brain about the immediate energy needs, the levels of stored energy, and the metabolic requirements, which are required to meet the demands of the organism.”
These natural bodily demands basically relate to “I’m hungry” or “I’m full.”
Top Nutrients that Lead to Satiety
When it comes to making sure those satiation hormones are triggered, there are a few nutrient groups that will do the job for you! By understanding the groups of nutrients that trigger satiation, you’ll be a pro at creating plant-based kitchen concoctions on a whim!
No matter where you look in the health world you’ll find an emphasis on getting lots of healthy protein into your diet!
When it comes to feeling satiated, “adding more protein to your diet can increase feelings of fullness, make you eat less at your next meal, and help you lose fat.” On top of that, higher intakes of healthy protein can help to “prevent muscle loss,” especially if you’re reducing daily calories. It’s recommended to make “protein about 20 [to] 30 [percent] of your total calorie intake, or 0.45 [to] 0.55 g/lb of body weight.”
Fiber is an essential component for a healthy gut, but it’s also a great way to trigger that satiation!
Dietary fiber — found in most veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds — “stretches the stomach, slows its emptying rate and influences the release of fullness hormones.” On top of that, since fiber moves so slowly through your bowels, it actually begins to ferment, which “produces short-chain fatty acids through to further help promote feelings fullness.”
Along with that feeling of fullness, it’s been found that dietary fiber may be one of the best foods to feed your gut microbiome — the ecosystem of bacteria found throughout your body — which can improve the performance of your digestive system leading to better nutrient absorption and more accurate signaling of satiation to the brain.
Solid Foods (Over Liquids)
One of the first signals to both your brain and your gut in the satiation process is chewing. Masticating our food creates saliva, which helps the food be swallowed more easily and breaks it down. Unfortunately, solids don’t require chewing, therefore you’re taking part in the satiation signaling process out of the equation.
Research has also found that more chewing — focusing on chewing your food at least 30 times before swallowing, for instance — “can grant more time for the fullness signal to reach the brain.” On top of that, it’s also been discovered that “extra chewing time allows solids to stay in content with the taste buds for longer, which can also promote feelings of fullness.”
Alright, we just talked about how liquids may not be the best option as a meal to create satiety, but when it comes to water, you’ll want to stock up!
Studies have shown that “people who drink two glasses of water immediately before a meal eat 22 [percent] less than those who don’t drink any water.” When you consume water, it sufficiently stretches “the stomach enough to send signals of fullness to the brain.”
By consuming water before and after your meals, you can boost that feeling fullness!
10 Best Plant-Based Foods to Boost Satiety
Alright, you know all about satiety and the nutritional groups that go along with that feeling of fullness, now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty! I’m talking about specific foods to integrate into your meals to help activate those satiation hormones. Luckily, there are a handful of plant-based foods that will do the trick.
1. Dark Chocolate
Yes, it’s true! Dark chocolate can absolutely help you feel a bit fuller.
When it comes to dark chocolate, it’s all about that bitterness, which is “thought to help decrease appetite and diminish cravings for sweets.” On top of that, dark chocolate is rich in stearic acid, which may help “slow digestion, further increasing feelings of fullness.” Another study found that “simply smelling 85 [percent] dark chocolate decreased both appetite and hunger hormones.” With that said, choosing the right dark chocolate is key for this to work. You’ll want to find a dark chocolate bar that is more than 75 percent cacao has the least amount or zero added sugars.
Ginger is mostly recognized as a natural remedy for nausea, as well as a wonderful, aromatic anti-inflammatory agent. Yet, it’s also a great plant-based ingredient to help you feel satiated. In fact, recent research has touted ginger as a possible aid for hunger-reduction.
Ginger is super easy to integrate into a plant-based diet! Try a few of these creative ginger recipes: Homemade Elderberry Syrup, Coconut Lemongrass Ramen, Carrot Ginger Soup with Curried Raisin Relish, Ginger Cookies, or this Lentil Oatmeal.
3. Chili Peppers
There’s just something about hot peppers that makes you want to take a step back from your plate and put your hands up! And, it’s called capsaicin.
Capsaicin, which is “found in hot peppers” was discovered to help “decrease hunger and increase feelings of fullness.” On top of that, this compound also generates heat within the body, which “may also increase the number of calories burned after a meal.” Chili peppers aren’t just great in chili — even though they really are great in chili! — but they can be a wonderful flavor addition to an array of dishes.
There’s a reason why oats are such a popular breakfast food, they fill you up! This is due to a few factors. First off, oats are rich in a very specific type of fiber called beta-glucan, which “has been shown to have positive effects on satiety with the special bonus of lowering blood cholesterol.” Along with being filling and helping your digestive system jump start for the day, they’re also super easy to make. Mix some oats with your favorite plant-based milk the night before and they’ll be ready to eat in the morning as you run out the door!
Oats are an excellent way to start your morning! Here are some super creative oatmeal recipes to give a try: Vanilla Matcha Oatmeal, Blueberry Pineapple Overnight Oatmeal, Funfetti Cake Cauliflower Proats, or these Cocoa “Zoats”.
Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are widely hailed as one of the best plant-based sources of protein, which makes them a perfect food to increase the satiation. In fact, a half-cup of chickpeas offers 6 grams of protein and “22 percent of the daily value of fiber.”
Chickpeas are an excellent substitute in many plant-based recipes! Try a few of these chickpea-based recipes: Falafel Salad With Chia Dressing, Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Onions, Tahini Vanilla Blondies, or this Chickpea Miso Noodle Soup.
Nuts are a great plant-based snack or milk alternative, plus they’re a wonderful source of a variety of nutrients! When it comes to filling up your tummy, try incorporating more walnuts. Walnuts are rich in protein, fiber, and those elusive plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. One specific study discovered that “consuming walnuts may activate an area in the brain associated with controlling hunger and cravings.”
What creative things can you make with walnuts? Here are a few ideas: Mushroom and Nut Burgers, Creamy Walnut White Sauce Pasta, Walnut Taco Meat, Chick’n Walnut Apple Bites, or this Fig and Walnut No-Knead Bread.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that potatoes land on this list, but here they are!
Potatoes are rich in starchy complex carbs, which “provide a sustainable source of energy.” On top of that, you’ll get a great dose of folate and vitamins A and C. Plus, you’ll have a few different kinds to choose from including white potatoes, russet potatoes, purple potatoes, and the nutrient powerhouse sweet potatoes! Keep in mind that potatoes are rich in calories, so these tasty ingredients can play the center of the meal.
Potatoes are incredibly diverse, yet they can be somewhat neutral flavor-wise. Therefore, choose recipes with aromatics and flavorings. Here are a few to get you started: Potato Salad With Caramelized Onions and Walnuts, Quick and Easy Authentic Potato Curry, Italian Fried Potatoes With Peppers, or these Loaded Potato Bites.
8. Brussels Sprouts
Cruciferous veggies are nutrient powerhouses! They’re rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as other nourishing plant-based compounds. Brussels sprouts specifically are a great choice! One cup of these cruciferous veggies offers “100 percent of your daily vitamin C, [four] grams of protein, and 16 percent of your daily fiber.”
Brussels sprouts can be super tasty when you do it right! Here are a few ways to make super tasty Brussels sprouts: Buffalo Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Italian Brussels with Arugula Pistachio Pesto,
There’s really nothing an avocado can’t do! They’re creamy, rich, and nutrient-dense making them the perfect food to help fill you up. In fact, avocado has “20 vitamins and minerals — including monounsaturated fats — and 11 percent of your daily fiber.” A recent study found that people “who included half an avocado in their lunch felt 26 percent more satisfied three hours following the meal, compared to those who ate the same lunch without avocado.”
If you love the taste of avocado, then finding ways to incorporate it on a daily basis is incredibly fulfilling! Here are a few recipes to get you started: Kale and Avocado Salad, Parsley Pear Green Smoothie, Chickpea Shakshouka with Avocados and Fresh Herbs, or this Avocado Tofu Chocolate Mousse.
10. Green Peas
Peas are having a moment in the plant-based health world, but not necessarily for their ability to fill you up, but more as an incredibly clean and powerful source of protein. While yellow peas are generally used for those protein powders and milk, green peas are a bit tastier for your kitchen cooking! Green peas offer around “[four] grams of protein and 14 percent of your daily fiber” per half-cup.
Green peas are naturally sweet, which means they’re a wonderful substitute in a plant-based diet if you’re craving those refined sugar treats! With that said, green peas are excellent in central dishes as well. Here are a few recipes to get you started: 15-Minute Zucchini, Pea, and Watercress Minestrone, Pea Risotto With Roasted Asparagus, Vegetable Pot Pie, Minty Mashed Peas, or these Quinoa Flour, Zucchini, and Peas Pancakes.
Learn how to keep your tummy full on a plant-based diet with these knowledge and recipe-filled articles!
- 15 Filling, Nutritious Smoothie Ideas!
- 5 Simple, Filling Meals You Would Be Surprised Are Cheaper to Cook at Home
- 15 Fantastically Filling Vegan Meals!
- How to Fill Your Tummy and Feel Satisfied on a Plant-Based
- 15 Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes That Will Fill You Up!
- How to Stay Satisfied Throughout the Day on a Plant-Based Diet
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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