Vinegar: That oil and vinegar dressing on your salad may be helping your body control blood sugar—which can keep hunger in check. Researchers at the University of Milan found that red wine vinegar can cut the so-called glycemic response—the rise in blood sugar—from a high-carbohydrate meal by 30%. When blood sugar rises rapidly, it then plummets just as fast. Not only is this hard on your body, but the rapid drop signals to the brain that you need more food, fast.
Researchers at Arizona State University repeated the study with similar results: When volunteers downed four teaspoons of apple cider vinegar before a high-carb breakfast of bagels and orange juice, their blood sugar response fell by 55%. And Japanese researchers found that when vinegar was included in a sauce during a meal, it could depress blood sugar and insulin response in men by 20 to 40%; it also slowed the accumulation of body fat.How does vinegar manage this magic trick? It contains acetic acid which seems to interfere with the breakdown of starches and slows the digestion of carbohydrates. You can use white, red wine, rice wine, apple cider, or balsamic vinegar with olive oil on your salad. And you can add it to sauces for fish, poultry, or beef.
Popcorn: Here’s something most people forget about this movie-time snack: It’s a whole grain. A serving of popcorn—about three cups—provides 70% of your daily whole grain needs, making it a surprisingly simple and almost indulgent source. All that fiber fills you up, keeping snacking urges at bay.Popcorn holds more surprises: A study from the University of Scranton finds that this whole grain contains at least as many polyphenols—antioxidants that help ward off heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases—as fruits and vegetables. “Those hulls deserve more respect,” says study author Joe Vinson, PhD. “They are nutritional gold nuggets.” Just avoid microwave popcorn, which is loaded with fat. Better yet, try another topping, like chili powder (which can also help suppress appetite—see below) or tamari sauce.
Sourdough bread: Bread is generally a no-no when you’re trying to shed pounds. But sourdough bread contains “starter,” a combination of living yeast and bacteria which helps ferment the dough and gives the bread its unique flavor. The lactic acid produced by the bacterial culture helps tamp down the seesaw swings in blood sugar that leave you feeling ravenous. A small study in Sweden found that eating a breakfast that included sourdough toast suppressed blood sugar levels by nearly 30% compared to a breakfast that included regular bread. By the way, rye bread is usually made with sourdough starter as well.
Chiles: Hot peppers may be an acquired taste, but it’s a taste worth acquiring. In 2011, Purdue University researchers found that eating food spiced with cayenne powder suppressed appetite while cranking up calorie burn. And it only takes a little heat to work wonders: In the study, volunteers added about half a teaspoon of cayenne powder to meals. Tasting the spice is key for the appetite-suppressing effect, say the researchers, so don’t rely on capsaicin-containing capsules. You can mix cayenne or chopped up chilies into pasta dishes, stews, sauces, soups, beans—and popcorn, of course. Keep a hot sauce bottle on the table and next to the stove and use it to spice all types of food.
Peanut Butter: One of the longest running research projects around,the Nurses’ Health Study, discovered that women who ate peanut butter at least five times a week weighed about 10 pounds less on average than women who avoided peanut butter. (They also had 30% lower incidence of diabetes.) According to a Purdue University study, the spread seems to quell appetite for up to two hours longer than a low-fiber, high-carb snack such as potato chips. Just be sure to choose the all-natural version when you shop. Check out the label: It should be limited to peanuts, oil, and maybe a little salt.
Pistachios: In 2012, U.S. Agricultural Research Service food scientist David J. Baer, PhD, found that pistachios had about 6% fewer calories than everyone once thought, putting them at 160 calories an ounce. That’s the lowest calorie count of any nut, says Baer. The reason? The body has trouble digesting the fat in this nut. In other words, you get to taste the fat when you eat pistachios, but you don’t digest it—that’s the perfect diet food, as tasting that fat will help tame your hunger. There’s another advantage, as well: Pistachios weigh less than other nuts, which means that you can eat more for the same amount of calories. An ounce of walnuts gives you about 14 halves; an ounce of almonds is 23 nuts. But an ounce of pistachios gives you 43 nuts. And since pulling apart the shells slows down your snacking pace, your gut has time to register that it’s getting the sustenance it needs. Keep a snack-size baggy on hand for those times your stomach begins to growl.
Avocado: You no doubt know that delicious avocadoes rely on healthy unsaturated fats for their creamy goodness. What you may not know is that a new study at Loma Linda University found that having some avocado at lunch can cut hunger nearly in half. Volunteers ate lunches with and withoutavocadoes and then kept track of how hungry they felt for the rest of the day. Compared to a lunch sans avocado, the avocado meal cut the volunteers’ feeling of hunger by 40%. “Fullness is important,” says study author Joan Sabaté, MD, chair of the department of nutrition. “People are less likely to snack between meals.” You can get your avocado with guacamole, sliced over a salad, or smushed onto your sandwich.
Olive Oil: Put another check in the positive column for this heart-healthy oil: German researchers found that it’s more likely to satisfy your hunger than other types of fat. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, University of Vienna researchers fed people yogurt fattened with olive oil, butter, rapeseed oil, or lard. Over three months, the researchers carefully tracked how many calories the volunteers ate overall. During the time the volunteers ate the olive oil-based yogurt, they took in about 175 fewer calories a day compared to the other types of fat. You’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to add olive oil to your yogurt. After further analysis, the researchers believe that it’s the oil’s distinctive aroma helps tame hunger, so anytime you cook with it or sprinkle it over salad (with vinegar, of course), you’ll benefit.