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Plant-Based Proteins that May Help with Hunger Control

plant based proteins

Eating a higher protein diet has been promoted for weight loss because it helps us stay full longer, thereby helping to consume fewer calories. For carnivores, this obviously is quite easy – eat meat, fish and dairy foods. Can you achieve the same benefits on a plant-based diet?


Protein obviously is quite important for our bodies. There are at least 10,000 different proteins that make you what you are and keep you that way. Protein is found in muscle, bone, skin, hair and virtually every other body part you have. Therefore, we must consume protein daily to help repair and maintain these tissues and organs.

There is another benefit to protein. Compared to carbohydrate, it is digested more slowly in the digestive system. This can lead to a feeling of fullness and satiety, and help you eat less calories over the course of a day. Slowly, this deficit can help us shed excess weight.

All proteins can be broken down chemically into smaller segments known as amino acids. Some of these are “essential” – meaning that the body cannot make it on its own and it must come from an outside source – the food we eat. One of these amino acids is of particular interest with those interested in weight management – Phenylalanine.

Professor Kevin Murphy and colleagues from Imperial College London have found that phenylalanine can reduce appetite. It accomplishes this by triggering the release of appetite-related hormones within the gut. One of these is GLP-1, which can also help improve glucose tolerance, thereby reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

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Animal based foods are known as “complete” proteins, meaning they contain all of the “essential” amino acids we need, including phenylalanine. But, fear not plant-based eaters! Non-animal sources of protein may not be 100% complete proteins on their own, but choosing foods wisely over the course of the day can assure that you will ultimately reach all of your protein and amino acid needs.

Plant-based foods that do contain phenylalanine are:

• Legumes, especially soy and soy-based products such as tofu and edamame.
• Cereals, such as rice, oats, barley and wheat (choose whole grains so that you also have the added filling benefit of fiber
• Nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)
• Seeds, especially pumpkin and sunflower

Having some of these foods each day may help you control your hunger and ultimately reach your goal weight.

Reference: "Rectal and oral administration of L-phenylalanine suppresses food intake and modulates neuronal activation in appetite-regulating brain regions in rodents," presented at the 2017 Society for Endocrinology annual conference, held in Harrogate, U.K. (Accessed via Medical News Today)