Weekday mornings can be an absolute blur! Many of us rush out the door without giving our nutrition goals a second thought. Some health-conscious folks have turned to liquid breakfast as a solution to their early morning nutrition needs.
There is a pervasive belief that smoothies, nutrition shakes and protein drinks are the ideal meal. Not all liquid breakfasts are healthy though. Before you become dependent on an early morning liquid nutrition fix, consider these important factors:
Liquid Breakfast and Weight Loss
A liquid breakfast may not be the best choice for those of us who are trying to lose weight. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that regardless of the macronutrient content of a liquid food, people increased their total daily calorie intake by 12-20% when they included liquid food sources with their meals.
For three days, the 120 study participants were asked to eat a specially prepared sandwich for lunch. On the first day of the study, participants were given water to drink. On the second and third days they were given high-carb watermelon juice or watermelon, high-fat coconut milk or coconut, or high-protein milk or cheese.
On each day the researchers tracked what the participant ate throughout the rest of the day. They found that compared with the sandwich-and-water meal, subjects who ate the solid foods consumed fewer calories after their lunches. The participants who were given liquid food, however, ate more. This was true whether the sample calories came from sugary, fatty or protein-rich sources.
This study and similar studies suggest that liquid nutrition may not be as satiating as eating whole foods. If you are trying to reduce your caloric intake, a solid breakfast may be the better choice.
Smoothies or Juice?
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and board-certified family physician, encourages people to dramatically increase their consumption of whole veggies and fruits.
He recognizes that drinking juices and smoothies is an easy way to enhance our nutrition. Dr. Fuhrman has concluded, however, that blended fruit and veggie drinks are a better choice when compared with juices.
Fuhrman finds that smoothies are a better meal replacement for several reasons:
- The sugar in the juice enters the bloodstream rapidly without fiber from the original vegetables and fruits to slow your digestion.
- Some research has suggested that the nutritious phytochemicals in plants are bound to fiber within the plant cell. Juicing then could remove these valuable micronutrients, but blending them into a smoothie would preserve both fiber and phytochemicals.
- In smoothies, you can blend in healthy fat sources like nuts. The presence of fat in the smoothie will enhance your body’s ability to absorb antioxidants like carotenoids.
If you want to include fresh produce into your liquid breakfast, try blending a smoothie instead of juicing. You will be more likely to enjoy the health benefits of the ingredients you’re drinking!
Protein Powder and your Liquid Breakfast
In addition to loading up on fruits and veggies, you may also want to give your liquid breakfast a protein boost. Before dumping powder into your blender, though, take a moment to consider some of the pros and cons of protein supplements.
Pro: The most popular type of protein powder is whey. There is good reason for this! Studies have found that whey has antioxidant, antihypertensive, antitumor, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Con: Research has also found that whey can increase the severity of acne.
Pro: Protein powders are a fast and relatively inexpensive way to add protein to your diet.
Con: Not all protein powders are created equal. It is important to understand that protein powder, like all nutritional supplements, is not regulated by the FDA. In 2010, Consumer Reports found low to moderate levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in some of the name brand whey protein powders they tested.
Pro: Protein supplementation might reduce your appetite. The Mayo Clinic has reported that there is good scientific evidence to suggest that whey protein powder increases feelings of fullness and reduces a person’s total food intake.
Con: Protein powders are an unnaturally dense source of protein. The concentration of protein in the average powder is higher than anything we’ve been eating throughout human history. This unnatural macronutrient composition may or may not pose a problem.
The Right Macronutrient Mix
Most nutrition experts will tell you that a healthy meal should include fibrous carbs, lean protein, and a healthy fat source. The same is true for liquid meals. Evaluate every smoothie recipe and pre-packaged drink for a balanced nutrient profile. Many fruit-based smoothies will be high in simple carbs while prepared drinks might not offer you anything but a fast protein source and artificial flavors. When choosing your liquid breakfast, be selective!
There are several factors you should consider before you start sipping your daily breakfast. Evaluate how full you feel after drinking a liquid meal and carefully consider what ingredients are right for you. A liquid breakfast may be the ideal solution to your morning nutrition issues or it may be a bad fit for your situation.