LIQUID NUTRITION?! Just typing those words in combination seems unethical. We are seeing a growing trend of speciality food shops that sell the nutrition dream: the idea that fruits & vegetables can be consumed "naturally" in a liquid form. The idea sounds great in theory and provokes interest in a society that falls short eating a healthy amount of real fibrous fruits & vegetables. Is it possible to extract the essential nutrients from food sources and blend them together in a new style of consumable nutrition without altering the way they absorb in our bodies? Can juicing and smoothie-sipping be beneficial for those who would otherwise forgo eating fruits and vegetables? These questions and more are addressed as we explore the newest liquid nutrition craze.
Where Do We Begin?
You should see the outline I have for this topic; It looks like collapsed dominoes meets an NFL football play with arrows in every direction. I suppose we should begin by discussing what's actually inside these liquids concoctions we create.
What happens when you take 5-8 fruits and vegetables and blend them together for a snack?
The answer is very complex, scientific, and, truthfully, pretty boring to read. Instead, I'll pose a different question:
If the following foods were laid out on a table (2 carrots, 1 lemon, 2 tomatoes, 1 head of broccoli, 3 red apples, 1 lime, 1 ginger, and 1 pineapple), could you eat them all in one sitting?
0% of you would answer YES. That's a fact.
You cannot consume all of these fruits and vegetables because YOU ARE NOT MEANT TO. These nutrition superfoods are great sources of real vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. But, like most things in the USA, we feel the need to over-consume because more of anything must be better, and drinking an enormous amount of fruits and vegetables together will yield an improved state of health.
Well, unfortunately, when we bypass the natural barriers of consumption and maximize the amount of food ingested, there are internal mechanisms within our small and large intestines that actually prevent nutrient absorption and send most of the liquid food out of the body (after some time passes).
[Simplified] When you alter the properties of nature's environment (in this case: food), the reactions will not be the same as it would have been in its original form.
[Even Easier] When you manipulate the amount of fruits and vegetables you can consume in one sitting by juicing/blending them together, you will not be healthier. You will have simply consumed a large amount of calories, with a substantial amount of sugar, and utilize only a small portion of the magic potion for vitamin/mineral uptake.
What's The Difference From Chewing Food?
Let's start with understanding the role of fiber. Again, you could not eat even close to the amount of fruits and vegetables that you drink in liquid nutrition because your body would stop you from eating a second piece of fruit. The fiber within fruits and vegetables acts as a regulator of intake and works wonders within your intestines. Fiber is one of the components of fruits and vegetables that makes them so superior for the functioning of the human body. Fiber helps regulate the amount of food you eat, helping you consume just enough of what you need without overdoing it.
This stuff called fiber can actually regulate your body and brain to stop eating without feeling deprived or hungry. Imagine that -- no more calorie counting! All you have to do is eat your fruits and vegetables with every meal (more of the latter if you really want superior health) and fiber will take care of the rest.
Now for a little science: Have you ever noticed your mouth filling up with saliva just before you ate something delicious? This is one of the initiating automatic mechanisms of mastication (chewing) . Your body will start to produce saliva in your mouth to help break down the food using enzymes and lubricating the passage from your mouth into your stomach acids. Yummy. These enzymes help bring fiber to the stomach and then digestion is slowed down because fiber either becomes a gel in the stomach (called soluble fiber) or passes through the body intact (called insoluble fiber). These mechanisms get compromised when you pull a QB-sneak and flood your stomach with liquid fruits and vegetables. You just faked out your body! And, how the heck does your body know when to say STOP if the structure of the fruit/vegetable is shredded by steel smoothie blades and the fiber is not ingested with the salvia?!
This is why you can tackle a large fruit/veggie smoothie without much effort, yet you can't eat just two damn apples!
[Sorry for all the football references; It's Sunday at the moment.]
YOU CAN DRINK MORE THAN YOU CAN EAT! FACT.
But What About All Those Vitamins & Minerals? ... I Need To Be 100%!
Hate to break it to you, but you'll never be perfect. No person will ever be completely balanced in every vitamin and mineral. Deficiencies are inevitable because our bodies are never at the same state for more than a few seconds. The engines are always a go and it is IMPOSSIBLE to be perfectly healthy. Now, that doesn't mean throw it all away and forgo all good eating habits. Instead, focus on a balanced amount of fruits and vegetables, high quality proteins, various omega-3 fats, and limited carbohydrates (depending on exercise frequency).
Your smoothies may contain 260% Vitamin C, 120% Vitamin A, and a plethora of other great vitamins. But do all these vitamins absorb just because you ate (drank) them? No guarantee whatsoever. Could you be drinking an overabundance of nutrients that make their way to out of the body? You bet. And, do all those sugars from the fruits enter your blood stream and cause a spike in your insulin? Guaranteed.
So Is All Liquid Nutrition Bad?
As much as we love to place foods on two extreme spectrums, nothing is innately bad or good. Food is different for each person, depending on a number of variables. Smoothies and Juicing can be great for certain people who need the liquid nutrition. I'll outline a hypothetical situation that shows what type of person could benefit from a smoothie/juicing consumption:
Stevie likes to exercise. Stevie wants to add as much muscle strength as he can while maintaing a lean figure. Stevie weighs around 150 pounds and begins to exercise harder, more frequently. He exercises 2-3x a week with resistance training and and 3-4x a week with high intensity cardiovascular exercise. For Stevie to add muscle strength, he would need an excess of 3,000+ Calories just to make any gains! Though eating is a pleasure, Stevie finds consuming that much food is a struggle for him. You would think 3,000+ Calories of nutrient-dense food would be plenty for Stevie, but he still lacks the muscle strength he expects from his hard workouts.
In this case, a smoothies and or a juiced liquid would be an appropriate addition with Stevie's meals because it'll give him an easy way to sneak in an extra 500+ Calories of quality nutrients. Plus, if Stevie is exercising this frequently with this much intensity, he needs the extra vitamins and minerals to repair his muscles and replenish his strength.
Smoothies are a great way to ingest extra Calories without your body stopping the intake. Smoothies, in this case, work well for Stevie. I personally can relate to the above situation because I'm always struggling to keep size on my body. Smoothies, in my case, work well for me.
To Be Specific: Smoothies/Juicing works well with a population who needs to ingest a large amount of food in order to meet the demands of their bodies and/or activity level. Smoothies act as SUPPLEMENT. Like any supplement, the smoothies/juicing are an ADDITION, not an replacement, to eating normal foods. It's just a simple boost in calories that hopefully contain some nutrients. Again, we [the population that can benefit from liquid nutrition] do not view liquid nutrition as our go-to source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
One more time... Liquid nutrition is an add-on supplement to everyday food. GO EAT YOUR DAMN VEGETABLES!!!
*Side Note: Another crowd that could benefit from liquid nutrition are the people that suffer from stomach pains and digestive issues. As explained earlier, liquid nutrition can have laxative effects because small amounts of the remaining insoluble fiber which acts as a laxative and aids in the digestion process.*
The SCAM -- Unveiled!
The proof is in the pudding. This drink would score a 100 on the Glycemic Index, meaning it would have a near lethal effect on your blood sugar. Great for diabetics going through an emergency blood sugar crash. That's about it.
Liquid Nutrition does not give you any extra benefits compared to eating food.
You can drink more in quantity than you can eat, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
When you alter the structure of a food into mush, the food does not have the same effect(s) within the body.
Food is meant to be eaten in its natural state. You have teeth for a reason -- practice the art of chewing.
If health and weight maintenance/loss are the goals, eating food will be the best strategy.
Liquid Nutrition removes most of the fiber yet retains all of the sugar in fruits and vegetables.
If you need a boost of sugars and carbohydrates along with some vitamins and minerals, liquid nutrition would be a viable option IN ADDITION to eating all of your necessary foods daily. This is usually for a small population, consisting of mostly males who need 1,000's of extra Calories each day. How many women are trying to gain weight and can afford a hefty dose of insulin-spiking sugars and carbohydrates? Probably not too many, if any.
However, there is a slight loophole to everything I discussed in this article. There is small window of time when drinking a smoothie/juiced liquid could be beneficial. This is the Post-Workout Period. Yes, after an intense resistance training session, your body will have used its sugar stores for energy to perform the exercising and these stores needs to be replenished, along with the balancing your blood sugar levels. In this specific case, liquid nutrition could be justified. In order to maximize the replenishment, include protein in any liquid nutrition.
So, unless you're coming straight from the an intense workout and are about to request two scoops of protein in your drink, liquid nutrition is nothing more than liquid candy. It's dessert. It's a treat. Don't be scammed by the brands or the marketing -- good health requires more than liquid in a plastic cup.