Why do healthy foods make me hungry

Why am I so hungry?

// by Carolin Schlumprecht // 20 comments

Hunger is a problem that some struggle with when switching to the Paleo diet. It almost seems like the hunger just cannot be satisfied. But how can it be that the stomach starts to growl again shortly after eating? Before, you never had a problem with it and the Paleo diet should offer so many good nutrients! We explain here where this great hunger can come from and how it can be counteracted.

How does hunger arise?

Hunger is an innate sensation that is usually perceived as negative and is caused by a lack of food, or more precisely, a lack of energy. Hunger is perceived in our central nervous system, i.e. in the brain. Neuronal, metabolic and hormonal signals are transmitted to our hunger and satiety center in the hypothalamus, which then lead to hunger.

The neural signals include information about the Stomach fullness and intestines. The stomach and intestines both contract during digestion. That is, they contract. If the stomach is now empty, this contraction leads to the gnawing feeling that we know as hunger. In addition, there are so-called chemoreceptors in the intestines and the liver. These can Nutritional content recognize the food ingested. If the digestive tract is empty, the receptors cannot pick up any signals and in turn pass them on to the brain. This in turn triggers hunger. Finally there is also one hormone in the body, which causes hunger: Ghrelin is a gastrointestinal peptide, i.e. a short protein that stimulates food intake. It is formed in the stomach as soon as it is empty and broken down again when food intake begins.

Hunger is a very complex feeling that is regulated on several levels. Hunger and satiety centers constantly pick up signals and bring them into harmony with body temperature, light-dark cycles, the body's own energy reserves (fat stores) and the nutrient composition of the food ingested, which creates either hunger or a feeling of satiety.

The hunger and the chemoreceptors

The chemoreceptors in the intestine act on the nutritional composition of the food pulp. These signals influence the acute feeling of hunger and thus the amount of food consumed. If you only consume a lot of low-calorie liquid, the stomach expands, but the chemoreceptors do not react. The feeling of satiety is therefore rather low. The same goes for high calorie servings. A small amount that is already high in calories will only decrease satiety. Anyone who has overeating on nuts is familiar with this phenomenon. A large portion of pasta is therefore filling well thanks to its calorie ratio. Vegetables and lean meat may fill you up with the amount, but they contain fewer calories and therefore cannot lead to the same satiety. If you eat the vegetables and meat with a sufficient fat content, the meal will contain enough calories to ensure a good satiety. This is another reason why we do not recommend using (good) fat sparingly (list of healthy fats and oils) and adding it to your meals.

The nutritional composition counts

As already mentioned, the nutritional composition of the Paleo diet can initially lead to increased hunger. Paleo is a very nutritious form of nutrition, but that does not immediately mean that the “Stone Age Diet” is also rich in calories. The same portion of grain, potatoes or the like that used to fill you up is no longer enough in the form of vegetables and meat to meet the calorie requirement. Because vegetables in particular satisfy hunger through the filling level of the stomach, but not through its calorie content. Because vegetables are not very rich and can not be completely digested due to the mostly high fiber content. Dietary fibers are carbohydrates that our digestive tract cannot open up and which are therefore excreted undigested. Therefore, one plate of vegetables ultimately provides the body with less energy than the same serving of pasta.

Not every calorie is created equal - the energy of assimilation

In addition, there is also the so-called assimilation energy. This is the energy that the body needs to obtain the body's form of energy, the ATP, from the various macronutrients. In several steps, the absorbed nutrients such as glucose, fat and protein are broken down and used in order to gain the energy-rich ATP. But the body itself also needs energy for this. This assimilation energy is higher for fat and especially proteins than for carbohydrates. So if you consume the same amount of carbohydrates and protein, the proteins ultimately provide the body with less energy, because the body had to expend so much to maintain the energy of the proteins. In summary, this means that although you feel full, the body's energy needs are not yet covered by the same portion of proteins.

The transit time affects the feeling of satiety

The transit time is the time it takes for food to be transported to the digestive system, digested, and excreted. It is also influenced by the composition of the nutrients. Lots of fluids and a high fiber content will shorten this time, whereas a high carbohydrate, fat and calorie content of the food will lengthen it. A longer transit time also leads to a longer lasting saturation. Due to the high fiber content and the low calorie content of vegetables, the pulp stays in the digestive tract for a shorter time. As already mentioned, the filling status of the stomach and intestines is an important factor in the feeling of hunger. It can be that by eating vegetables and lean meat, hunger comes back more quickly. Here too, the fat content of the food must be adjusted. Because fat is a perfect supplier of energy. This increases the calorie content of the meals, increases the transit time and thus the satiety.

So how do I counteract quickly recurring hunger at Paleo?

It is best to listen to his stomach. When you are hungry, you should eat because your body needs nutrients too. But you can also trick hunger a little. A large portion of a meal containing protein and fat increases the amount of food consumed as well as its calorie content and thus the transit time. The food pulp stays longer in the digestive tract and satiety lasts longer. It has also been shown that protein has a very good satiety effect that also lasts longer. So if you are very hungry, which always returns quickly, it is best to grab meat that is not too lean, as well as eggs, and add a large vegetable side dish. This will fill the stomach enough and the calorie content is sufficient to be really full. With starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, pumpkin, plantains, etc.) you can add a portion of healthy carbohydrates to a meal and thus provide an additional source of energy, especially for active people.

What are your experiences with hunger in the Paleo diet? What keeps you full for a long time? Tell us about it in the comments.

© sarkophoto - istockphoto.com

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Written by Carolin

Carolin is a trained nutritionist and former competitive athlete in canoe slalom. So exercise and a healthy diet have long played an important role for them. When Carolin heard about Paleo for the first time, she was immediately hooked. At Paleo360, she wants to help people escape the trend of mindless eating. Carolin on Google+
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