Green Leafy Vegetables for Weight Loss: The Role of Thylakoids in Suppressing Appetite

by David Greenwalt

If you’re looking to eat healthier, including green leafy vegetables into your meals regularly is a must. These nutrient-dense foods are great for your health, and they can help you to lose weight, too.

A recent study in over 130,000 adults found that people who increased their intake of green leafy vegetables lost more weight over four years compared to people who didn’t eat more of these healthy vegetables.

So why might foods like spinach, kale, and collard greens help you to lose weight? One reason is that these green leafy vegetables contain structures called thylakoids, which can help to naturally reduce your appetite.

What Are Thylakoids?

Thylakoids are structures found in plants. They are shaped like flattened sacs stacked on top of each other and are present inside of chloroplasts, organelles which help plants to carry out the process of photosynthesis.

Thylakoids contain chlorophyll, which is the pigment responsible for making plants green in color.

Thylakoids Act As Natural Appetite Suppresants

Several studies have found that adding thylakoids to your nutrition regimen can help to reduce feelings of hunger, increase feelings of satiety, reduce cravings, and increase weight loss in adults.

In one study published in the journal Appetite, overweight women were given a blueberry drink before breakfast with either 5 g of thylakoids (from a spinach extract) or a blueberry drink without thylakoids (control).

Eating the drink with thylakoids led to a 21% reduction in hunger and a 14% increase in satiety compared to the control. Further, cravings for snacks and sweets during the rest of the day were reduced by 35%.

In another study, overweight women who supplemented with thylakoids before breakfast for 12 weeks lost significantly more weight than those who received a placebo drink without thylakoids. The thylakoid group lost an average of about 11 pounds, while the control group lost only an average of 7.7 pounds over the 12-week study.

How Do Thylakoids Help You Lose Weight?

Researchers have proposed numerous mechanisms by which thylakoids can help to reduce your appetite and help you to lose weight.

One reason is that eating thylakoids affects hormones that modulate hunger and satiety. For example, thylakoid intake leads to increased levels of a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK), which promotes feelings of satiety.

Studies have also found thylakoid intake to reduce levels of ghrelin and increase levels of leptin after meals, hormones that are related to your appetite and desire to eat.

Another mechanism is related to blood sugar. Supplementation with thylakoids helps prevent a drop in blood sugar after meals, which can help keep you feeling full for longer.

Which Foods are Rich In Thylakoids?

Any green vegetables contain thylakoids, but leafy vegetables are some of the richest sources. Some of the best food options for boosting your thylakoid intake include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens

Other Major Benefits of Eating Green Leafy Vegetables

Thylakoids are only a small part of what makes green leafy vegetables especially good for your health. Green leafy vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can help you lose weight, fight disease, and be in the best health possible.

Some of the top green leafy vegetable benefits include:

  1. Lowering your blood pressure
  2. Reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes
  3. Boosting your intake of nutrients good for your eyes
  4. Protecting yourself against heart disease
  5. Increasing your intake of vitamin K, which is good for your bones

Boosting Your Green Leafy Vegetable Intake

If you are looking to lose weight or to improve your overall health, you’ll want to start eating more nutrient-dense vegetables. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and cabbage are great options, as they can help to reduce your appetite, help you lose weight, reduce your risk for disease, and more.

You can buy supplements of spinach extracts to boost your thylakoid intake, but eating the green leafy vegetables themselves is the best way to get plenty of these appetite-suppressing compounds.

David Says:


Green leafy vegetables are easy to add to your plan, as they are quite versatile. Eat a salad daily, using mixed greens like spinach, lettuce, baby kale, and more. Sautee leafy greens with other veggies to create a delicious side dish. Blend greens into a smoothie for lunch or breakfast. The options are endless.

References

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9. J Diabetes Investig. 2016 Jan;7(1):56-69.
10. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2016 Jan;50:34-66.
11. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Dec;98(6):1514-23.
12. Open Heart. 2015 Oct 6;2(1):e000300.