From smoothies to pressed juices, liquid nutrition is more popular than ever. It’s an easy way to fill up on busy days, or get a quick infusion of muscle-building protein and carbs after a workout.
What you may not realize: Consuming liquid supplements regularly has major health benefits, says Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., a New York–based nutrition coach. Here are five ways your body thanks you after every sip.
1. You’ll Stay Full Longer
Blended or liquefied foods may linger in your stomach longer than chewed foods, and thus could help you feel fuller longer, finds a recent study from the United Kingdom.
When people ate roasted chicken and vegetables with a glass of water, their stomachs emptied faster than if they swallowed the same food-and-water combination blended together to form a soup.
Why? Your stomach does a bit of separating and sorting before allowing foods and nutrients to drain into your digestive tract. Liquefied foods are more thoroughly mixed together, and so may take longer to pass out of your stomach, the British study suggests.
One caveat: Research in the journal Appetite shows that eating solid foods can lead to more immediate feelings of fullness. This is likely due to the fact that chewing sends your brain “I’m full” messages that switch off your hunger reflexes.
For that reason, don’t chug. Drinking slowly will give your brain time to shut down your hunger, which will help you feel satisfied more quickly and longer.
2. You’ll Curb Your Sugar Cravings
If you’ve been sweating through a rigorous workout, your blood sugar levels can fluctuate, making you hungry—especially for the sweet stuff. “But a liquid nutrition supplement that provides a balance of protein and carbohydrates can help stabilize your blood sugar to keep those sneaky post-workout sugar cravings at bay,” Cording says.
Just make sure you’re choosing a product with the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Some supplements come loaded with fruit juices and other chemical sweeteners that can spike your blood sugar rather than stabilize it.
3. You’ll Take in More Nutrients
Many nutritious foods have tough cellular membranes that are hard to break down. If they’re still intact before you swallow, your stomach and digestive system will have a trickier time accessing and absorbing all your food’s healthy nutrients, shows research from Purdue University.
But liquefied foods break down those cell walls before they reach your mouth, helping your gut get more of the good stuff—especially if you’re a fast eater who tends not to chew your food thoroughly, the Purdue study suggests.
4. You’ll Eat Healthier Foods
You could pack every traditional meal with tons of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods, but most of us don’t. “I find people are more willing to put some healthy things in a smoothie—things they might not eat in the context of a solid-food meal or snack,” Cording says. She flags ground flax, turmeric, ginger, and maca as great blender-only options.
Smoothies are also perfect for working fiber- and nutrient-rich vegetables into your diet. You may struggle to enjoy foods like spinach and kale, for example, on their own.
5. You’ll Lose (or Gain) Weight Safely
If you’re trying to cut calories or portion sizes to drop a few pounds, your weight-loss diet may put you at risk for some nutritional deficiencies, shows a recent study in Nutrition Journal. But adding a nutrient-packed liquid meal to your daily menu may lower your risk for vitamin and mineral shortfalls.
In that study, women who swallowed a portion of their daily calories in the form of a liquid replacement meal lost just as much weight as those who stuck with traditional meals and foods, but experienced lower rates of nutritional deficiencies.
At the same time, if you’re trying to gain weight, adding an extra liquid meal to your eating plan may help you pad your diet with extra protein or calories.