What we eat and drink supplies our bodies with many of the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and energy we need to support a balanced and healthy lifestyle. When it comes to choosing what foods and liquid we consume, it is very important to make educated and conscious decisions.
Our body is our temple – we only have one, so we need to take care of it! It is unlikely that we would put milk in our car rather than petrol, so why would we put something into our bodies which will negatively impact our mood, health and functioning?
Liquids are a crucial part of our survival, and we have all come to enjoy a variety of beverages. However, it is important to be aware. Sweetened beverages may taste good, but there is more to these drinks that we need to consider.
Liquids are quickly absorbed into the body. So, when we drink something that is high in sugar, our insulin levels have to respond quickly in order to attempt to keep our blood sugar levels balanced and controlled. If we drink sweetened drinks frequently, our insulin levels peak regularly. This can lead to insulin resistance, which is an impaired response.
Insulin resistance leads to high levels of glucose in the blood. When our body resists insulin our cells cannot respond normally. As a result, glucose cannot access the cells, and then it builds up in our blood, which may eventually lead to type two diabetes. Insulin resistance typically does not show any symptoms, which makes it an even more worrying risk.
Surely “sugar-free” drinks are better for us? Think again. These drinks often use artificial sweeteners, and just like these sweeteners taste the same as sugar to us, insulin also senses such similarity, causing insulin confusion.
This artificial sweetness triggers the cephalic phase in insulin release, causing a small rise in insulin levels. The cephalic phase is a conditioned response to our senses which prepare the body for food intake.
This particular phase is often influenced by inconsistent signals which then leads to post-ingestive consequences. Consuming artificial sweeteners on a regular basis can result in an imbalance in our gut bacteria. This may lead to cells becoming resistant to the insulin being produced by our body, and an increase in our bodies’ insulin and blood sugar levels.
The more artificial sweeteners we consume – just like other sugars -, the more the body craves these. As a result, the more we ingest these sweeteners, the more the body will crave high-calorie foods, and beverages, putting us at risk of binging, weight gain and impulsive eating.
So many of us think it is a healthier option to drink smoothies and juices, however what we often fail to consider is how many calories are piled into that one glass. Juices are particularly high in sugar and calories, as it takes a large amount of fruit and vegetables to make one glass of juice. When we consume fluid calories, we do not compensate by eating less calories. Fluid calories do not create a sense of fullness, and therefore we find ourselves feeling hungry soon after. As a result, we land up eating more calories overall.
Hunger is regulated by our gut and stomach. When we eat, signals are sent to the brain indicating the stomach wall to stretch, sending satiation signals to the brain. When we drink, satiety hormones and brain signalling are not triggered the same way, as liquids are quickly absorbed in the body. Without chewing, our brain does not have time to register that we are full, and so we still feel hungry, and then we land up eating more.
Don’t drink your calories. Rather enjoy a refreshing glass of water, or sip on a calming cup of tea when you are thirsty; and actually eat something when you are hungry, and gain the nutrients and vitamins from food. It is best to avoid the canned and bottled stuff all together, but if you do grab a beverage at the store, remember to read the ingredients! Be mindful, and make decisions that will support your body, not drain it.
This article is written by Bianca Aimée Kramer.