Full or satisfied: How do you know when the meal is over?
There are foods that fill you up with their sheer physical bulk and some that satisfy with taste and texture. Then there are the physiological consequences of different foods—they trigger receptors in the digestive tract or send signals to the brain that carry their own messages about appetite. Foods like oatmeal and legumes will fill you up without much textural gratification, while candy and chips provide satisfaction with little filling power. A high satiety food will give you both.
The satiety index tells you about food’s bang for the buck.
The satiety index takes into account the combination of physical, psychological, and physiological factors that contribute to a sense of fullness, and then it factors in the calories. It rolls all of that into a single number that is a simple tool for evaluating and comparing foods. A high satiety food will satisfy hunger better and for a longer time than the same number of calories of a low satiety food. The SI is full of surprises:
- While all energy-dense foods pack a big calorie wallop in a little package, calorie-for-calorie, beef and chicken are better protein sources than eggs.
- It makes no difference if a man (but not women or children) drinks full-sugar soda, sugar-free soda, or bottled water. Lower satiety beverages have him seeking out other treats, and at the end of the day the total calories consumed will be the same.
- Steamed white potatoes rule the satiety index. Their stuffy blandness gives four times the bulk and three times the filling power of the average food.
- Jelly beans can curb the appetite. Their nutritional profile should score low on the SI, but a handful of jelly beans leaves dieters feeling so queasy that they’ll eat less afterward.
- Apples and oranges—actually you can compare them, and oranges have a slight SI edge. Both are more satisfying than grapes and bananas.
Here is the satiety index of common foods, adapted from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: