Feeling hungry? You should eat. But what if the foods you’re eating actually make you hungrier than you were before you dug in? It’s a more common conundrum than you might think. Here are 4 foods that can make you feel like you’re running on empty—even when your stomach is stuffed.
1. White bread
The white flour used to bake white bread has been stripped of its outer shell (the bran), which depletes the grain’s feel-full fiber content. Eating it spikes your insulin levels. In a recent Spanish study, researchers tracked the eating habits and weights of more than 9,000 people and found that those who ate two or more servings of white bread a day were 40% more likely to become overweight or obese over a five-year period compared to those who ate less of it.
2. Salty snacks
There’s a reason why you crave something sweet after polishing off a bag of potato chips. Chips, pretzels, and salty snack mixes are little more than quick-digesting simple carbs, which can spur insulin highs and subsequent lows. And since your taste buds and brain link fast-acting energy with sweet foods, it’s common to have a craving for something sweet once you finish your salty nosh. What’s more, thanks to a phenomenon known as sensory specific satiety, you can fill up on chips and feel like only your salty stomach is full. Your sweet one can still feel empty.
Alcohol doesn’t just lower your healthy-eating resolve, it downright makes you hungrier: According to research published in Alcohol & Alcoholism, just three servings can slash your body’s levels of leptin—a hormone designed to squash hunger and keep you feeling full—by 30%. Alcohol can also deplete your body’s carbohydrate stores (called glycogen), causing you to crave carbs in order to replace what was lost. And if you find yourself craving salty snacks, dehydration and a loss of electrolytes may be at work.
4. Artificial sweeteners
Whether they are in your diet soda or sprinkled in your coffee, artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and others) excite your brain cells, making them think they are about to get a sweet serving of energy (aka calories), and then let them down—hard. The upshot: You may crave—and eat—more sweets throughout the day, trying to make up for the letdown. Over time, this process can actually affect the hunger control centers of the brain, she says. And get this: It has been proposed that artificial sweeteners cause insulin spikes just like real, calorie-packed sugar.