When clients tell me about their attempts to lose weight, I find that many cherry pick tactics from different diets to create a hodgepodge of strategies that work for them. It’s a savvy way to find a just right approach that generates results and has staying power—a must for keeping lost pounds at bay.
Now, researchers at the Université Laval in Canada believe they have found their own magic combo. Dubbed the “satiating diet” and touted as a hybrid of the Mediterranean and keto diets, it supports weight loss and good health, and doesn’t require extreme measures, proponents say. I looked into it, and here's what I found.
What is the satiating diet?
The foundation of the satiating diet consists of healthful foods that trigger satiety—or feelings of fullness and satisfaction. These include lean proteins, like fish and yogurt; produce and high fiber whole grains; and good fats, from foods like avocados and nuts. The plan also incorporates capsaicin, the substance that gives spicy peppers their heat. That makes sense, as this natural chemical has been shown to curb appetite and rev metabolism.
According to a 2017 study by the Canadian researchers, the satiating diet consists of the following daily: at least four servings each of whole veggies and fruits; 5 servings of high fiber whole grains (with at least 4 g of fiber per portion); lean protein in every meal (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, or tofu); nuts and seeds, avocado, and other healthy plant fats; at least one legume meal per week; and the consumption of hot peppers or red peppers.
Does it help with weight loss?
The results of the aforementioned small study seem to indicate so—at least for obese men. The study of the diet tracked obese men. Thirty four followed the satiating plan, which provided 20–25% of calories from protein, 45-50% from carbs, and 30-35% from fat for 16 weeks. Another 35 obese men followed a standard diet with 10–15% protein, 55-60% carbs, and 30% fat, based on Canada’s national guidelines for healthy eating.
The men on the satiating diet lost significantly more weight and body fat, and they experienced greater feelings of fullness compared to those who followed the standard diet. Even better, the satiating diet eaters stuck with it. Only 8.6% stopped following the diet, compared to 44.1% of standard diet eaters.
Why it's similar to the keto and Mediterranean diets
If you’re thinking that aside from the hot peppers this is pretty much a Mediterranean diet, I agree. In fact, with all the whole grains and fruit, it’s far from the keto diet. These days, any diet that allows for generous portions of fat is labeled keto, when in fact keto also severely limits carbs to about 5% of total daily calories.
A Mediterranean diet typically provides 30-35% fat, so the satiating diet is not above the norm. While the satiating diet slightly tweaks the other two macronutrients, curbing carbs a tad and upping lean protein, it’s still very balanced overall. And the fact that it doesn’t eliminate any entire food group does make it more doable than other extreme approaches.
How to follow the satiating diet
Unfortunately, there is no one website or go-to resource to learn about the satiating diet, but it may be coming. For now, if you’re interested, here’s my advice: Follow a Mediterranean diet, for which there are many resources available online (Health's guide to the Mediterranean diet made simple is a good place to start.)
Next, add some whole hot peppers or dried pepper seasonings to your meals, to take advantage of their calorie-boosting, appetite-suppressing benefits. Finally, fine-tune your protein and carb portions so you strike a balance that allows you to feel energized—while simultaneously filling you up and downgrading your desire to eat.
Focus on whole foods, such as oats and quinoa over processed carbs, like pita bread and crackers. Choose high quality animal products, like pasture-raised eggs and grass-fed meat and yogurt. Above all, listen to your body and your gut instinct.
Many people quit the keto diet because they don’t feel well on it, or they find it impractical to never eat a banana or potato again. If you tried keto and felt the same way, ditch what doesn’t feel right, regardless of what’s popular. Hone in on an eating pattern that best supports your physical, emotional, and social wellness, so you can shed pounds happily and healthfully, and keep them off for good.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
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