You may be wondering how something as light and low in calories as romaine lettuce, kale, or spinach is going to help keep you feeling full for more hours. Well, the secret lies in certain compounds found abundantly in leafy greens - they are disk-shaped compounds known as thylakoids.
Thylakoids are chlorophyll-containing structures (the pigment that gives leaves their green color) found in the chloroplasts of green leaves.
These compounds have been suggested to increase signals of fullness and decrease signals of hunger (from the ghrelin hormone). How? Studies have shown they prolong the digestion of fat by binding to it. Since it takes longer to digest the fat, appetite can be curbed for a longer period of time. They also slow down the passage of glucose through the intestinal wall. Thylakoid-rich meals also reduced levels of insulin. In what way? Less insulin was needed to maintain a normal blood sugar level. This is beneficial because higher insulin responses after a meal are linked with more inflammation, more blood sugar swings that can lead to hunger later on in the day, and even increased belly fat.
One recent thylakoid study in overweight women found that including thylakoid sources with a high-carb meal helped lower feelings of hunger and increase satiety (with the cholecystokinin hormone) from three hours on. The thylakoids also prevent the hunger-promoting effect of "reactive hypoglycemia" after a high-carb meal. This is when blood sugar levels drop immediately after an insulin spike. This sets the stage for an increased appetite.
Make Your Meals Thylakoid-Rich
Are cravings thwarting your health and weight goals? Remember to add leafy greens to every meal! Not only will they help you control your appetite/satiety hormones, but they are also jam-packed with nutrients.
Remember, if it's green, it's probably rich in thylakoids. Include foods such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, collard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, dandelion greens, mustard greens and cabbage.
EnergyFirst's Greenergy Green Drink Powder provides the equivalent of 5 servings of nutrient-dense vegetables in each scoop. Many of the vegetables included, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, are thylakoid-rich leafy greens.
Stenblom, E-L, et al. (2013). Supplementation by thylakoids to a high carbohydrate meal decreases feelings of hunger, elevates CCK levels and prevents postprandial hypoglycaemia in overweight women. Appetite, 68, 118-123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.04.022
Stenblom, E-L., Egecioglu, E., & Erlanson-Albertsson, C. (2015). Consumption of thylakoid-rich spinach extract reduces hunger, increases satiety and reduces cravings for palatable food in overweight women. Appetite, 91(Apr 17), 209-219. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.051 Bjoro, K. (2009). Scand J Gastroenterol, 44(6), 712-9. https://doi.org/10.1080/00365520902910302