Whether as smoothies, juice cleanses, in powder form or bottled in trendy bottles from the health food market - liquid meals are currently on everyone's lips. Meals in liquid form are practical, wholesome and contemporary, according to the manufacturers' consensus. Liquid food is intended to save time and adapt your diet to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Why actually chew when you can eat a wholesome meal in liquid form? After all, not everyone has time to eat.
These and other marketing campaigns are currently popularly promoting the various liquid food products.
In this article we would like to clarify why caution should be exercised here, how liquid meals should be viewed from a nutritional perspective and why liquid food cannot keep up with solid food.
What are liquid meals?
Liquid meals come in different forms: full meals can be found in bottles; health-promising juice cleanses that are also supposed to make you slim and detoxify the body; or meals in powder form that you can mix yourself.
What they all have in common is the promise that the liquid meal/drink would replace a full, solid meal and that the body would benefit from it equally or even more.
Some manufacturers warn that their products should only be taken for a short period of time and should not replace solid food, while other producers omit this warning.
But what motivates people in general, with the exception of astronauts, to choose liquid food?
Why does someone choose liquid food?
The potential benefits of a liquid meal are touted in many ways: you save a lot of money because a liquid meal in powder form is much cheaper than a home-cooked meal made from various foods from the supermarket. In addition, there is no time for weekly or daily shopping and of course you have a shortened or even completely eliminated preparation time.
Because: most liquid meals are already produced or, as powder, just need to be mixed with water or milk.
However, one of the most attractive advantages of the liquid meal is the promise that all the necessary and valuable nutrients would already be included in the instant meal. So you no longer have to worry about whether you have cooked and eaten in a varied and balanced way.
Another touted advantage of the liquid meal is that you are said to be less tired after eating or drinking the liquid meal.
We all know it: you've eaten a lot and then you could lie down straight away to take a little digestive nap. Since the liquid meal does not need to be chewed and is passed directly into the digestive tract, less energy has to be used by the body, which supposedly leads to less tiredness after consumption. However, this claim cannot be confirmed by all consumers.
The advertised advantages of liquid food at a glance:
- Time savings by eliminating preparation time and shopping
- More cost-effective than fixed, freshly prepared meals
- Supposedly less tiredness after consumption
- All nutrients already included
But what does it look like in reality? Are liquid meals as promising as they seem?
Nutritional perspective on liquid food
A purely liquid diet is not unknown to medicine. In certain circumstances, doctors even recommend a liquid meal or temporary nutrition in liquid form. These circumstances can include, for example, previous surgery on the stomach or gastrointestinal tract, diarrhea, diabetes or Crohn's disease. The goal of liquid nutrition is to keep the patient hydrated while still providing them with important nutrients.
Eating a liquid diet mainly ensures that the stomach and gastrointestinal tract can recover because they only have to do little work for digestion. For a few days or a short period of time, this form of nutrition is not a problem.
However, it becomes problematic if a person consumes liquid meals over a long period of time or regularly. But why?
Problems with liquid nutrition
If you don't take the time to chew and replace solid food with liquid food, you're damaging your digestion and potentially your overall health in the long run. Our digestion is very closely related to our immune system and is an essential part of it, which in turn should emphasize the importance of sensible handling of our gastrointestinal tract.
The digestion of food and the confrontation of our intestinal bacteria, the intestinal mucosa and the other parts of our gastrointestinal tract with threatening but also valuable substances keeps our intestines and our immune system healthy and active. The constant immune reaction of our intestines and its confrontation with potential threats strengthens the immune system in the long term and ensures that our intestines can recognize threats in good time so that we don't get sick. Our secondary immune system is strengthened by an active intestine.
However, if the intestine is regularly “sent on vacation” because we replace solid meals with liquid food, then we deprive the intestine of its function, which can lead to illness and atrophy.
Many powders and liquid foods also contain an enormous amount of sugar, which can cause long-term damage to dental health.
Questionable nutrient intake
One of the biggest concerns about liquid nutrition is our body's questionable absorption of artificially added and highly processed nutrients. We already know from nutritionists and biochemists that not all artificially added or highly processed nutrients and additives can be absorbed by the body, such as vitamin B-1.
In addition, liquid meals also lack phytochemicals, which have diverse and important effects on our general health, such as blood pressure. Secondary plant substances, such as phenolic acids, are also important for our immune system and general intestinal health.
A potential consequence of a regular liquid diet can be, for example, “leaky gut syndrome”.
Does that sound unpleasant? Yes, that's it too. And what are the consequences of leaky gut syndrome?
The leaky gut syndrome
If the protective function of the intestinal mucosa is severely disrupted, this is referred to as leaky gut syndrome, i.e. a permeable intestine.
Our intestinal membrane and the immune system there, the GALT , protect us from pathogens, harmful bacteria and viruses by recognizing these pathogens by the various actors and actively fighting them or expelling them. The intestine plays one of the most important roles in our general health and immune system.
If this protective barrier is disturbed, for example because it is inflamed or can no longer work properly, then harmful substances can enter our bloodstream unhindered and consequently make us sick.
Our immune system then only recognizes the threatening intruders with a delay and then reacts with inflammatory and allergic processes, which can lead to malaise and a variety of accompanying symptoms. It is therefore important that we keep our intestines healthy so that the GALT can detect potential threats in good time in order to combat them in a timely manner.
With liquid meals, we deprive the body of important digestive processes that it normally carries out and that keep the intestines healthy and nourished. Digestion begins with chewing and salivation in the mouth.
If we drink liquid food, this first and second step is completely eliminated. The starch-breaking enzyme alpha-amylase is found in our saliva. Amylase breaks down the starch, i.e. polysaccharides, into fragments of starch, dextrins, which facilitates and promotes further digestion and absorption of nutrients in the intestine. The longer we chew, the smaller the starch molecules are broken down and the better the nutrients can be metabolized by the body during the further digestive process.
And how can we keep our intestines healthy?
The conclusion: Chew – oldie, but goldie
Leaky gut syndrome and other gut-related diseases can be prevented by keeping your gut active and healthy, similar to the rest of our body. Meals that have been freshly prepared and need to be chewed are ideal for this purpose and are intended for this purpose.
Because: If we do not use a part of the body or an organ the way evolution and biology have created and intended it, then in the long term the organ will atrophy, become damaged and susceptible to pathogens and diseases that can become chronic.
Solid and natural foods contain numerous nutrients, vitamins and trace elements that have been proven to be absorbable by our body. This is not always the case with highly processed and artificial nutrients or is not yet completely clear. In addition, solid foods such as vegetables and fruit contain secondary plant substances that have far-reaching and positive effects on our health. Trace elements also do not legally have to be labeled and reported, which makes their content in liquid food questionable.
We can conclude: A meal needs to be digested. We cannot bypass, ignore or skip the entire enzymatic process of our digestion with liquid food. Carbohydrates should be chewed and salivated before the intestines begin further digestion. Natural nutrients and trace elements are also preferable to artificial substances from a nutritional perspective.
If you eat foods containing sugar and carbohydrates, regardless of their form, you should salivate in your mouth for at least 3 seconds and only then swallow them. This is also important for sports drinks that contain sugar and carbohydrates.
Finally, we would also like to point out that the social factor of a shared meal should not be ignored. Eating a meal in company has profound, positive effects on our mental health.
So it's best to eat your meals in company, in solid form and while sitting!
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22724-leaky-gut-syndrome#:~:text=Leaky%20gut%20syndrome%20is%20a%20theory%20that%20intestinal%20permeability%20is,letting%20toxins %20into%20your%20bloodstream .