Ever tried to optimize weird tiny parts of your day, like what are the fastest socks to put on or take off or the perfect route you can take out the door/on the way to work? Probably not, but now we’ve got you thinking about it because we brought it up. Let’s turn this into a food thing, which you might be looking to optimize because you have to cook for a lot of people and want to make the least food. Or you’re just curious, which is most people. Anyway, what is the most filling food? Also, once we’ve picked out the most filling food, could you just live off of one food forever?
The (Nutritionally) Most Dense Food
You might have immediately jumped to density as your unit of measure here. Which makes sense, you’re looking for what has the most stuff in the smallest volume.
But there’s also just finding the densest thing in terms of mass per unit volume (how heavy something is relative to the space it takes up). Which is just something with as much salt and sugar as possible, since those are some of the densest things you can eat. Just compress salt and sugar into an airless, waterless cube, we guess. Sounds not fun. You’d also probably die, considering a 15 pound block of salt would just kill you.
Obviously going for something that’s super dense, also the densest materials period aren’t food (duh).
Some common picks for the most nutritionally dense foods are things that fall under the nut banner, particularly almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. Sweet potatoes come with antioxidants and a handful of vitamins. There’s also salmon for your omega fatty acids and kale.
Can You Live Off of One Food?
You might be thinking “hey, some of these picks are super nutrient dense, what if I just ate only that for the rest of my life?” Fair question, though the obvious retort is that even if you could do it… why, though? Food’s cool and eating just walnuts for your entire life sounds exceedingly boring. The short answer is “no,” though.
Let’s engage in the thought experiment, though. There is absolutely nothing that you could just eat forever and not suffer any consequences. Unless you chose a fruit or some specific vegetables, you’re going to end up with scurvy. Meat will definitely not end well; your liver won’t be able to process all the protein properly and meat on its own contains no fiber. Eating too much red meat is also a great way to get cancer.
One of the best candidates is the potato. Normal potatoes contain all essential amino acids, though only sweet potatoes contain other minerals and vitamins you might need. You’d need to eat a lot of potatoes per day before you met any minimum requirement for your protein and mineral intake. Also eating lots of potatoes is linked to obesity and diabetes.
The Satiety Index
Alright, so you’re not going to be eating just a single food for the rest of your life–lest you want it to be a shorter life and a less interesting one. Luckily, researchers in 1995 tried to figure out how to measure the “filling” quality of food, and called it the satiety index. Basically they had people score how much given foods satisfied their hunger. Typically things with lots of protein or fiber ranked higher, as well as things that were high in volume. The last bit makes sense, since eating something that’s physically really big (but doesn’t really have anything in it) will trick our dumb monkey brains into thinking we ate a lot.
Anyway, of the foods that were tested, boiled potatoes were ranked the highest by a long shot.
See if you know who makes the most potatoes here.