Lower hunger by going for lower food insulin index

Food pyramid with many low glycemic index foods at the base and a few high glycemic index foods at the apex

Later in the day, hunger returns more easily.

One way to keep hunger away is to choose foods that are include few or no carbs.

A better way to keep hunger away is to choose foods that have a lower glycemic index (GI), as in the figure above.[1] This way we can include some carbs.

The best way to keep hunger away is to choose foods that have a lower food insulin index. The food insulin index is the insulin demand generated by a food, scaled so that the insulin demand generated by glucose equals 100. Using the food insulin index, we can take into account some low-carb foods that also bring hunger.

The food insulin index varies by food group:

3 – fats and oils
8 – alcohol
22 – meat and protein alternatives
41 – mixed meals
47 – dairy products
49 – vegetables and legumes
50 – fruit and fruit juice
55 – snack foods
56 – french fries
58 – breads, cereals, grains, rice, and pasta
63 – beverages
71 – candy
100 – glucose

Meats, nuts, and cheese—whose food insulin index is markedly lower—are easy to remember late in the day to keep hunger away. But this amounts to just avoiding carbs. With the food insulin index, we can do better.

Within most of the food groups, the food insulin index of individual foods varies a whole lot. This lets us look over each food group and start choosing and remembering new favorites.

Food insulin index values of various foods, grouped by food type, in a bar graph[2]

So sometimes instead of the usual cheeses, nuts, or jerky, you might want to try having some whole-grain crackers, Snickers bars, chocolate chip cookies, or regular potato chips.


  1. Bao, Jiansong, et al. “Food insulin index: physiologic basis for predicting insulin demand evoked by composite meals.The American journal of clinical nutrition 90.4 (2009): 986-992.
  2. Bell, Kirstine (2014). Clinical Application of the Food Insulin Index to Diabetes Mellitus (Doctoral dissertation).

Hunger returns quicker cause insulin is lower as the day goes on

Food choices shown here change as the day goes on to help keep hunger away.. [1]

Hunger is controlled by many hormones.[2] One factor we can control is what we eat, and when.

In an early study, increased insulin increased hunger.[3] In later studies in mice, though, insulin reduced hunger.[4] Also in a later study in women, insulin reduced hunger. It even reduced the tastiness of the tastiest snack offered, chocolate chip cookies. Sounds definitive.[5]

The same foods lead us to produce different amounts of insulin at different times of day. A given food produces a stronger insulin response in the morning than in the afternoon and evening, as shown in the figure.

Graph shows how the insulin response to food differs at 9 am, 3 pm, and 8 pm.
[6]

  • At 9 am the insulin response is fast, high, and long.
  • At 3 pm the insulin response is slow, medium, and long.
  • At 8 pm the insulin response is slow, low, and short.

The insulin response reduces hunger most in the morning, less in the afternoon, and least in the evening.

This is great news! Forewarned is forearmed.

We can satisfy our hunger equally well throughout the day by splurging in the morning, being more careful in the afternoon, and being most careful in the evening.


  1. “Welcome to Northside Grille.” HudsonNorthSideGrille.com. Accessed 29 Oct. 2016.
  2. Schwartz, Michael W., and Gregory J. Morton. “Obesity: keeping hunger at bay.” Nature 418.6898 (2002): 595-597.
  3. Rodin, Judith, et al. “Effect of insulin and glucose on feeding behavior.” Metabolism 34.9 (1985): 826-831.
  4. Piroli, G. G. “Regulation of food intake: an ‘old’ actor plays a ‘new’ role.Molecular psychiatry 8.4 (2003): 364-365.
  5. Hallschmid, Manfred, et al. “Postprandial administration of intranasal insulin intensifies satiety and reduces intake of palatable snacks in women.Diabetes 61.4 (2012): 782-789.
  6. Jarrett, R. J., et al. “Diurnal variation in oral glucose tolerance: blood sugar and plasma insulin levels morning, afternoon, and evening.Br Med J 1.5794 (1972): 199-201.