Deeply satisfying

Research shows that whitefish such as cod is one of the world’s most satisfying foods, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and making it much easier to keep your daily calorie count under control.

As numerous surveys show, lots of us know that eating seafood is good for us, and there’s plenty of research demonstrating that it helps us to live to a healthy old age. Less well known is the fact that some seafood is also unusually satisfying, or “satiating”, which means it keeps you feeling fuller for longer, making it much easier to keep your daily calorie count under control. So it’s the perfect choice for February, a backsliding month if ever there was one.

Here’s why. It’s widely accepted that proteins are better at satisfying the appetite than fats and carbohydrates – which is why people often feel hungry again so soon after eating junk food. But studies dating back over a decade show that whitefish is one of the most satiating foods of all, relative to its calorie count. So if you really want to keep hunger locked up, then fish like cod or ling are the way forward.

Researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet demonstrated this effect with a test on a roomful of diners: half were given a beef main course, and the other half a whitefish main course, both with the same amount of calories. After lunch, none of the diners were allowed to snack during the afternoon, and then at dinnertime they were all unleashed on the same eat-as-much-as-you-want buffet. The results showed that those who had enjoyed a white fish lunch ate 11 per cent less than their beefy counterparts.

Research in this area is still in its early days: the Fishmongers’ Company has endeavoured to explore it further through workshops and academic sponsorship, particularly to broaden the range of seafood investigated and to improve understanding of the mechanisms involved. Meanwhile, M&S has used nutritional research to develop protein-rich meals for its “Fuller Longer” range, including cod mornay.

Of course, how you cook your fish makes a difference to the fullness versus calorie bang for buck. Frying requires butter or oil, which adds calories, while steaming or poaching, or indeed grilling, don’t. That said, there’s no reason why you can’t add a knob of butter to your vegetables – which of course are just as important a part of a balanced meal. And on that note, check out this cracking recipe from sustainable fishmonger Bart Van Olphen for fresh Icelandic cod, just posted on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube.

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