Eat to Balance Your Hunger Hormones

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 08:56

The hormone leptin is released from your fat cells after you eat to tell your body to stop feeling hungry and start burning calories. So the more leptin the merrier, right? Not exactly. The more fat you have on your body, the more leptin you produce, and excess leptin can eventually cause your body to become resistant. If your body is resistant to leptin, the hormone can't do its job. The goal is to optimize your leptin levels by choosing foods that work to increase your body's sensitivity to leptin and strategically raise levels of it when necessary. Here are a few of the nutrients you should look for.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): This type of omega-3 fatty acid stimulates leptin production by increasing the metabolism of glucose. It's found in cold-water fish, such as wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring. (Farm-raised fish are not a great source of EPA or other omega-3s because their diet makes them produce more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s. Omega-6 fatty acids encourage inflammation and can counter the healthful effects of omega-3s.) Other types of omega-3s can cause a temporary dip in leptin levels, which can help you kick-start a sluggish metabolism.

Protein: One study found that increasing protein to 30 percent of total daily calorie intake improved participants' leptin sensitivity, which resulted in overall lowered calorie intake. Good sources of protein include yogurt, Pacific wild salmon, turkey, eggs, and peanut butter.

Zinc: This mineral acts like EPA, in that it raises leptin levels. Oysters, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products are all good sources of zinc.