By Anna Roufos
It may sound like something invented in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory but “feel-full foods” are a reality. “Four hours of fullness in just 190 calories,” claims the new Slim-Fast Optima shake. And Slim-Fast’s parent company has the science to back it up. “We can mimic the level of fullness that you’d get from a large meal,” says Pat Groziak, M.S., R.D., senior manager for Unilever, which makes the shakes. How? By manipulating fat molecules to remain intact until they reach the lower part of the small intestine, where they trigger a cascade of hormones that tell the brain you’re satisfied. Kraft is in on the game, too, developing foods that incorporate “resistant starches,” which have the taste and texture of traditional starches but act like fiber, slowing digestion to keep you full longer. The modified starches premiered last year in Kraft’s South Beach Diet cookies and whole-wheat crackers and are now in a handful of other South Beach Diet products.
Innovative, yes. Revolutionary? Not really. What decades of studies on satiety (that comfortable feeling of fullness) suggest is that lean proteins and high-fiber foods have the most staying power. In effect, eating lots of fiber-packed produce, legumes and moderate amounts of lean proteins should help keep appetite in check.
Still, these high-satiety snacks are backed by sound (if preliminary) science. “All of these products have some evidence to show they can make an incremental difference in reducing food intake over the short term,” says Richard Mattes, Ph.D., professor of food and nutrition at Purdue University. The trick? Not to ignore your body’s “stop eating” signals.