Drinking Calories Vs. Eating Them
If you had to choose between drinking 200 calories and eating 200 calories, which one would you pick? Chances are, you’d choose the food. And that decision just might save your waistline. That’s because the calories in drinks leave you less satisfied than calories from actual food and do little to keep you from wanting to eat more later on.
“Beverages and food are sensed by completely different mechanisms in the body,” says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., chair of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University and author of “The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet.” Take those 200 calories. If you get them from solid foods, those calories impact the body and the brain in such a way that you’ll reduce your consumption of other foods, whereas when they come in in the form of liquid, even though the calorie amount may be the same, research shows that you don’t eat less later on, according to Lora Sporny, an adjunct associate profession of nutrition and education at Columbia University Teachers College. In a nutshell: Drinking 200 calories before your meal doesn’t translate to eating 200 less calories during your meal.
So why exactly would eating and drinking the same amount of calories fill you up differently? To begin with, “There are clearly different oral sensory signals with a liquid in the mouth versus a solid in the mouth,” explains Richard Mattes, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of food and nutrition at Purdue University. “A solid clearly requires additional oral processing, and there are data suggesting just the mechanical act of chewing generates satiety signals.” Chewing and the saliva it produces appear to signal to your body that you’re getting fuller.
Adds Dr. Mattes: “Liquids will clear from the stomach more quickly than will a solid food.” That matters because your stomach acts as a volume detector. The more stretched out it is, the more energy it assumes you’ve consumed. “When a lot of fluid comes in, it satiates very temporarily,” says Sporny, which only fleetingly dampens your urge to eat more.
The low density of beverages may be another reason they make you less satisfied. “The thicker the thing you consume,” Mattes explains, “the higher the energy value people believe it has and the more filling they say it makes them.” This is why thick smoothies fill you up more than other drinks, but still not as much as solid food.
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