We’ve been told since forever to eat our greens and plenty of it. Apart from essentially being very low in energy density (which helps us feel full without the excess calories) and providing plenty of nutrients, green leafy vegetables provide high levels of Thylakoids.
Green leafy vegetables provide the highest levels of thylakoids compared to other fruits and vegetables. The greener the leaves, the more thylakoid-dense it is!
The Natural Appetite Suppressor
How do thylakoids help us in the context of weight loss and maintenance? Let’s go through it together.
Thylakoids are able to resist digestion by our stomach and intestinal enzymes for a long time (hours!) and in this time they get to work.
They bind to ingested fats and to our fat-digesting enzyme (lipase) in order to delay fat from being digested and absorbed too quickly. How does this help?
It allows the food we’ve consumed to fill our small intestines without being digested for a more prolonged period. This continuously stimulates our satiety/fullness hormone (cholecystokinin) into effect as well as down-regulating our hunger hormone (ghrelin) to suppress our appetites.
Thylakoids have also been found to have an effect in suppressing hunger with high carbohydrate-based meals. It is believed that thylakoids change the way we metabolism sugars in a way that delays low blood glucose levels; which would normal stimulate our appetites. It has also been shown that, even with high carbohydrate meals, thylakoids causes a rise in our satiety/fullness hormones.
Does it cause Weight Loss?
It appears that thylakoids simply acts to suppress our appetites by making use feel fuller for longer. It doesn’t seem stop us from absorbing any less nutrients than we would have if we didn’t have any thylakoids. Does this translate to weight loss? Fortunately, researchers were curious to find out!
In a randomised trial, overweight women were assigned into two groups to have blueberry juice before breakfast everyday for 90 days. One group would have 5 grams of thylakoid powder (~100g baby spinach leaves extracted to powder form) added to their juice whereas the other control group would not.
They were also advised to have 3 healthy meals a day and to exercise for 30 minutes daily at a low intensity.
At day 90, both groups lost weight with the dietary and physical activity advice which is excellent! However, the Thylakoid group experienced a host of additional benefits compared to the control group. The Thylakoid group notably:
- Lost 1.5 kilograms / 3.3 pounds more weight than the control group
- Reduced their cravings for sweets, chocolate and chips significantly
- Reduced their Total Cholesterol levels as well as Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL; bad cholesterol) levels significantly more than the control groups
Essentially, the Thylakoid group was able to lose more weight simply by adding a small amount of spinach powder to their diets once daily. The reduced cravings effect of thylakoids against highly processed foods could help us with further weight loss or maintenance as well as our adherence to a whole food plant-based diet. Finally, lowering our cholesterol levels, particular our LDLs, goes a long way in protecting ourselves against heart disease.
“You Have to Eat Your Greens!”
…It seems that our parents were right on the ball with this one.
Making sure we get plenty of leafy green vegetables into our daily diets will ensure we get a good dose of thylakoids to help with our health and wellness goals.
For those who can not stand the taste of green vegetables or for those who simply want the convenience, using spinach or kale powdered extract in safe doses is an alternative option to ensure daily intake of thylakoids.
Keep In Mind
As always, we should keep in mind that a whole food plant-based lifestyle with regular exercise and mindfulness is the first priority in achieving our health and wellness goals. Adding or excluding specific foods may help us achieve our goals sooner but they should not be the focus of our approach!
- Albertsson PA, Köhnke R, Emek SC, et al. Chloroplast membranes retard fat digestion and induce satiety: effect of biological membranes on pancreatic lipase/co-lipase [published correction appears in Biochem J. 2007 Nov 1;407(3):471]. Biochem J. 2007;401(3):727-733. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17044813/
- Stenblom EL, Weström B, Linninge C, et al. Dietary green-plant thylakoids decrease gastric emptying and gut transit, promote changes in the gut microbial flora, but does not cause steatorrhea. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016;13:67 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27777602/
- Erlanson-Albertsson C, Albertsson PÅ. The Use of Green Leaf Membranes to Promote Appetite Control, Suppress Hedonic Hunger and Loose Body Weight. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2015;70(3):281-290. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26115760/
- Rebello CJ, Chu J, Beyl R, Edwall D, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Greenway FL. Acute Effects of a Spinach Extract Rich in Thylakoids on Satiety: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):470-477. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26029978/