Amy Shah, M.D.

Integrative Medicine Doctor

By Amy Shah, M.D.

Integrative Medicine Doctor

Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen’s Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows.

the two anti-inflammatory ingredients this top chef

Image by Eva Kosmas Flores

March 1, 2023

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“What if I told you true changes in your health and weight come from eating more, not less? And I mean eating more of the foods that satisfy you.” These words caused quite a stir during a nutrition seminar I presented via Zoom to a large group of high-functioning individuals working at a multinational investment company. Since the pandemic started, I have conducted more than 25 virtual seminars, so I know that it can be tough to keep attendees engaged—but I did it!

The expressions on their faces were mixed: wide eyes; gaping mouths; raised, quizzical eyebrows. These folks were definitely interested.


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I went on to explain that the best diet is one in which we do not count calories or macros but simply add, and prioritize, foods that promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction. When we do this, we zap cravings and uncontrollable hunger, we shed our diet obsession, we lose weight effortlessly (if that’s our goal), and we get healthy.

The Super Six.

Unlike every other diet you’ve been on, my plan does not lecture on what you can’t eat but rather focuses on target nutrients, or what I call the Super Six, that you add to your diet every day.

The essence of this strategy is to replenish: You fill your diet with more of what you can eat (nutrient-dense foods) and eat fewer processed foods and other less healthy choices. This way of eating is based on consuming many delicious whole foods that can help you reduce your cravings and improve satiety. Put another way, you have the freedom to choose healthy foods that promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction.

To replenish, make sure you incorporate the following every day:

Glucosinolates are good-for-you constituents of plant foods, primarily cruciferous vegetables. These are veggies like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale, all very popular vegetables both for their health benefits as well as their versatility in recipes.

Because these vegetables are so fiber- and nutrient-loaded, they tend to be more satisfying than high-carb foods. Plus, they can reduce overeating in the short and long term to support weight loss. They also offer amazing perks when it comes to guarding against serious illnesses, including cancer1.

So if these are the sort of veggies you turn your nose up at, be careful! You might be missing out on some seriously important nutrition. When you eat these veggies, their glucosinolates are broken down by microbes into compounds called metabolites. Metabolites halt inflammation, accelerate your metabolism, and set in motion enzymatic reactions to guard your cells from damage. Glucosinolates also work like natural antibiotics2 to help ward off bacterial, viral, and fungal infections in the body.

The most common glucosinolate-containing vegetables found on grocery store shelves are:

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoflower
  • Broccolini
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnip
  • Watercress


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I was raised in a culture that emphasized Ayurvedic medicine, one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems. Part of it focuses on nutrition and special healing diets. Many of the foods commonly used in the Ayurvedic diet tradition are rich in polyphenols, beneficial organic compounds found in various foods, particularly fruits and vegetables.

Dozens of polyphenol compounds exist naturally in foods, and each of them has a unique impact on human health. When I was growing up, for example, high-polyphenol foods like cloves were used to heal digestive problems, protect the brain, and enhance metabolism.

Other foods rich in polyphenols and used in Ayurvedic medicine include berries, pomegranates, leafy greens, nuts, and many different kinds of herbs.

Most of us know about antioxidants and how important they are for clearing our bloodstream and neural pathways of toxins we accumulate during the day. Polyphenols are a subset of antioxidants, and they have an array of effects on the body when included in your diet. Some polyphenols keep your skin looking healthy, while others help to promote good gut health3, giving your immune system a boost.

Polyphenols are key for controlling hunger, appetite, and cravings4. For one thing, they support the growth of good bacteria while combating bad bacteria. This builds gut diversity, which helps normalize hunger and appetite. Additionally, polyphenols promote the secretion of satiety hormones by cells in the gut.

Polyphenols can also reduce and control your blood sugar levels5—which helps with hunger and cravings. They also assist in churning out insulin, the hormone that signals your body to use glucose efficiently. This beneficial action can help prevent insulin resistance—that dreaded condition in which your body doesn’t respond properly to the hormone.

If you want to change your diet and start eating more nutritiously, increasing your intake of polyphenols is an excellent way to start.

We’ve talked about how eating protein at meals can fill you up faster than eating simple carbs like bread and pasta. One of the main reasons for this benefit is the amino acids found in proteins.

Maybe you’ve read about amino acids in a fitness magazine, seen them in the supplement aisle of your pharmacy, or heard about them in an ad. But what exactly do they do?

In simple terms, amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and they support many of your body’s most vital functions, ranging from digesting food to building muscle to helping the body burn fat.

They are also natural appetite suppressants. In fact, a 2009 review6 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that protein and amino acids are more powerful than carbohydrates and fat in promoting short-term satiety in animals and humans. Ingesting amino acids will impart the sensation of feeling full and help you stop overeating.


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Dopamine-supporting foods

Intertwined with hunger and satiety hormones are neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Remember, dopamine stimulates the reward and pleasure centers in the brain, which can impact both mood and food intake. Dopamine is often called the motivator molecule because it is responsible for sending signals to your brain to drive behavior.

While it is true that foods both high in sugar and fat (junk food) spike dopamine levels, there’s a rebound effect. Those same foods can bump up your appetite, lead to overeating, and possibly cause weight gain over the long haul.

So, are there foods that can boost dopamine but without that rebound effect? Yes—protein!

This fact first came to light in a 2014 issue of Nutrition Journal7, in which researchers compared the satiety effects from high-protein breakfasts (containing 35 grams of high-quality animal protein) versus normal-protein breakfasts (13 grams) or breakfast skipping in overweight and obese teenage girls. The high-protein breakfast worked best at curbing post-meal cravings and boosting dopamine levels.

This study was the first to show that dopamine surges after you eat protein. As I noted above, protein contains amino acids, several of which are the building blocks of dopamine. Thus, eating more protein is a healthier way to increase dopamine production.

So, what exactly should you eat if you want to raise your dopamine levels? Among the best choices are foods that are rich in tyrosine, the amino acid building block of dopamine. Think chicken, fish, and lean beef. For animal proteins, choose organic, grass-fed, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free, and, for fish, wild-caught as much as possible.

Plant foods that give a big dopamine boost include nuts and seeds, especially raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and chia and hemp seeds.

These awesome fats should be in your diet routinely because they are part of every cell in your body. They also help strengthen your immune system, support the health of your lungs and blood vessels, and help manufacture hormones.

As we’ve seen, appetite is regulated by complex neural and hormonal mechanisms that try to maintain homeostasis (aka keep things the same) in the body. Now, growing research has underscored how powerfully these fats support that regulatory system by boosting satiety.

In a study published in Appetite, obese and overweight individuals felt full sooner8 during meals containing omega-3 fats than later.

A study reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition9 sheds light on this. It turns out that omega-3 fats boost leptin levels in obese subjects. Leptin is the “I’m-full” hormone. The same study noted that these powerful fats increase levels of adiponectin, a hormone assigned the job of regulating glucose.


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I hope you’re not getting tired of hearing about fiber (I’ll be brief here!), but it is ultra-important for hunger regulation and satiety. It’s best to eat soluble, insoluble, and prebiotic forms of fiber every day.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and turns into a gel-like substance during digestion, which helps slow down the process and make you feel full. Insoluble fiber does not break down in the digestive system but works to help move food through the stomach and intestines. And prebiotic fiber encourages the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in your gut—which ultimately helps dampen cravings for sugar and keeps your hunger in check.

Excerpted from I’m So Effing Hungry: Why We Crave What We Crave—and What to Do About It © 2023 by Amy Shah, M.D. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


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