Juicing for breakfast. Mmmmm, a big 12-ounce glass of freshly juiced carrots and ginger to start your day?!
Or, maybe 8 to 12 ounces of a strawberry and banana smoothie.
It’s quick, easy, and nutritious, right?
Well, they are definitely more nutrient packed than a traditional American breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and hashbrowns. And more nutrient dense than a bowl of oatmeal topped with a few berries.
However, nurturing your body with nutrition goes far beyond just the food you eat.
Your Brain and Gut: The MVPs of Digestion
Digestion starts with visual and olfactory cues….seeing and smelling food initiates the release of chemical messengers (various hormones) that communicate to your brain and gut to be “on the ready” for an incoming delivery of nutrients.
Then when you eat, the act of chewing causes the release of even more hormones from your digestive track that tell your brain “hey, we’re getting some nutrients delivered; I’ll rally the crew and let you know when everything has been efficiently used and stored so you can stop the delivery.”
This message is referred to as “satiety” and it is a VERY important message in managing your energy intake…more simply, it reduces your hunger.
During digestion, the whole team is rallied together….besides the 2 MVPs that get the ball rolling (the gut and brain), other organs such as the pancreas, liver, muscles, kidneys, and the adrenal glands also play important roles in absorbing, utilizing, and storing energy and nutrients from the food you eat.
The tricky part of this process is that the messages delivered from the gut to the brain travel a bit slowly.
This is why the act of chewing is a critical phase in digestion; chewing provides the time needed for the brain to be in sync with the gut.
An interesting study in a small group of elderly individuals looked at the effect that chewing had on hunger 3 hours after finishing a meal. They found that chewing food 40 times, compared to 15 times, not only reduced hunger 3 hours later but also decreased thoughts about food and the desire to eat more food. This is very useful information if you are trying to lose, or gain, weight.
Smoothies and Juicing Aren’t Meals
Liquid food, similar to wolfing down food quickly, does not provide the same satiety response as eating (and chewing) whole food. You bypass an important weight- and energy-managing step by drinking meals and your brain doesn’t have a chance to get involved in the game.
It hasn’t had time to receive the message that you have enough food (energy & nutrients) and directs you to continue eating.
Because of this, you are more likely to be hungry between meals, especially if you drink large quantities of veggies and fruit alone without any other protein.
Additionally, eating mostly fruit in the morning means (1) you have consumed a big hit of sugar all at once that will keep your hormonal-energy balance out of whack, and (2) you have to make up for the missed nutrients and calories from protein and fat in the rest of your meals that day, which may be difficult to accomplish without stuffing yourself at any given meal.
So keep servings of liquid foods small and enjoy them as an addition to whole food meals.
Like mom always said, chew your food!
Take time to nurture your body with nutrition, chew well, and allow your brain time to get in the game.
In the next blog, we’ll take a look at the 4 major hormones that, when balanced, keep your body running like a well-oiled machine…maintaining your health and preventing disease.
Hartwig D, Hartwig M. It Starts With Food. Victory Belt Publishing, 2012. Kindle file.
Zhu Y, Hsu WH, Hollis JH. Increased number of chews during a fixed-amount meal suppresses postprandial appetite and modulates glycemic response in older males. Physiol Behav. 2014;133:136-40. PubMed ID 24857719