One solution that can help boost satiety is to eat more hydrophilic foods, according to registered dietitian Keren Gilbert, founder of Decision Nutrition and author of the forthcoming book The HD Diet.
Hydrophilic literally means "water-loving." Foods that have hydrophilic properties contain a high amount of gummy fibers, known as mucilage. When hydrophilic foods are ingested, they absorb water and form a gel in the stomach, creating a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down and slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. The end result? You feel fuller longer.
A prime example of a hydrophilic food is the chia seed. These tiny, black- or white-colored seeds look similar to sesame seeds. Nutrient-dense chia seeds have a high "good" fat content, including omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and are also a good source of protein, fiber, calcium, iron and manganese.
Indigenous to southern Mexico and northern Guatemala, they are a staple food of that region. It is believed that chia seeds were used as a high-energy endurance food by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas.
To make a chia gel, combine two tablespoons of chia seeds with one cup of water and let it stand at least 15 minutes. When you return, the seeds and water will have formed a thick gelatin.
Chia seeds became the star ingredient of the hydrophilic diet (HD) that Gilbert created after she discovered that chia seeds have the capacity to absorb water up to 12 times their weight. She began experimenting with chia seeds as a way to promote satiety, then began counseling her clients who were struggling to lose weight to incorporate them into their diet.
"Hydrophilic foods, like chia seeds, are loaded with soluble fiber, an essential piece of the hunger puzzle, which keeps us feeling fuller longer by helping stabilize blood sugar glucose levels and diminish cravings," says Gilbert.
Getting enough dietary fiber is important for digestive health and elimination of waste. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Foods with soluble fiber (like chia seeds) attract water and form a gel, which slows digestion and delays the emptying of your stomach. This stabilizes blood sugar and insulin levels function more efficiently — you avoid experiencing the roller-coaster effect of blood sugar highs and lows. Common sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, lentils, oranges, pear, flaxseed and dried peas.
Insoluble fiber helps to bulk and soften stool and to move it through your digestive tract, helping prevent constipation. Insoluble fibers are mainly found in whole grains and vegetables, including wheat bran, barley, brown rice, seeds, nuts, cabbage, dark leafy greens and root vegetable skins.
In her book, Gilbert refers to chia seeds as "hydro-boosters" because they can be added to meals or snacks to help promote satiety. Gilbert recommends that busy women add chia seeds at least twice daily — to their morning and afternoon meals — if they want to avoid feeling hungry during the busiest parts of their day. Chia seeds can be added directly — or as a chia gel — to oatmeal, smoothies and yogurt. "You will feel full for at least three hours," she assures.
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