When midday stomach pangs hit, your mind probably immediately jumps to chips or cookies, not something like a slice of turkey.
But food experts know that protein is the best nutrient to not only quickly satisfy hunger, but for keeping you feeling full longer than other foods.
Protein works because it takes much longer for the body to digest the nutrient, plus it keeps your blood sugar level balanced. In turn, this prevents the sort of cravings you’ve probably immediately experienced after finishing a doughnut, for example.
It’s not just your digestive system that’s appeased by protein either. The brain is a key contributor in why protein is so satisfying. Receptors in the brain that control weight respond quickly to the amino acids in certain high-protein foods, relaying messages to the body that your hunger has indeed been satisfied.
This is all part of a bigger chain reaction that begins when particular taste buds are activated by protein’s savory flavor, often referred to as umami — the so-called fifth taste after salty, sour, sweet and bitter. Two amino acids, in particular, trigger this quick response: arginine, which is not one of the nine essential amino acids, and lysine, one your body can’t make it on its own.
While it typically takes 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your body to get the message you’re full, the moment you have that first bite of protein, the aforementioned brain cells responsible for hunger response – tancytes – start going to work.
And no, turkey isn’t your only option (it’s kind of dry, isn’t it?). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foods with the highest amounts of both arginine and lysine include many cuts of beef, chicken, fish, pork loin, edamame, beans and lentils.
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