Q: Why is it that I feel hungry again an hour after eating Chinese food or other high carbohydrate meals?
A: Have you ever wondered about the medical reasoning behind this phenomenon? It actually has to do with the way food is broken down in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. As food passes through your small intestine, the nutrients are broken down into their basic parts and absorbed. Carbohydrates, which separate rapidly into single sugar units, are absorbed first. Proteins, which are broken down into amino acids, are next. And finally, fats are broken apart into fatty acids and absorbed last. That’s why high-fat meals keep you feeling full longer. A typical Chinese meal, which is high in carbohydrates (rice and noodles), will get absorbed much faster, leaving you with a growling stomach much sooner.
In addition, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Some carbohydrates like white rice and white bread have a higher glycemic index, which means that they are broken down very quickly and cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Carbs with a lower glycemic index such as whole grains are digested more slowly and only produce small fluctuations in blood glucose levels. For this reason, carbs with a lower glycemic index will keep you feeling fuller longer.
So the next time you’re ordering Chinese, choose brown rice over white. Or if you’re eating Italian, try a bowl of whole-wheat pasta instead of traditional pasta. Not only will it keep you fuller longer but it will be better for your overall health. When wheat and other grains are refined, such as in white rice and pasta, many of the nutrients such as vitamins and fiber, are stripped away. There is extensive research that shows that eating whole grains (such as brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, barley and quinoa) improves your overall health and prevents chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.(1-4)
Also, make sure you include a good mix of lean protein, low-fat dairy products and lots of fruits and veggies with your meal. To get a better idea of what you should be eating with each meal, take a look at the USDAs “MyPlate” which recently replaced the old Food Pyramid that we all grew up with.
|MyPlate from the USDA website|
1. Liu S, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, et al. Whole-grain consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: results from the Nurses’ Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999; 70:412-9.
2. Mellen PB, Walsh TF, Herrington DM. Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007.
3. de Munter JS, Hu FB, Spiegelman D, Franz M, van Dam RM. Whole grain, bran, and germ intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study and systematic review. PLoS Med. 2007; 4:e261.
4. Sun Q, Spiegelman D, van Dam RM, et al. White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. Arch Intern Med. 2010; 170:961-9