Why You Should Chew (Yes, Chew!) Your Green Smoothies
This post has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Tim Jackson, DPT and functional medicine practitioner.
With so many amazing benefits to drinking your greens, you probably feel pretty proud of your decision to include green smoothies as part of your healthy lifestyle.
However, you may be missing out on some of the nutritional benefits swirling around in that glass of goodness. There’s one surprising and simple step you could add while enjoying your healthy green smoothie that would boost the nutritional effects even more: Chew them!
In this article:
- Closer to the Diet Nature Intended
- The Crucial Role of Chewing
- The One-Two Punch: Blending and Chewing
- More Health Benefits of Chewing
This tip can especially help folks with digestive problems who don’t absorb much nutrition. These increasingly common maladies include leaky gut, SIBO, Crohn’s disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “How on earth could I chew a blended smoothie?” and that part is easy:
- You just take a sip of your healthy green smoothie.
- Move your teeth in a chewing motion multiple times.
- Swallow your green smoothie.
The more complex question is why you should chew your smoothies, and the answer requires a bit of a biology lesson.
Closer to the Diet Nature Intended
We all know we shouldn’t be eating refined sugars and processed foods, but with so much conflicting advice — Go Paleo! Go Keto! Avoid all carbs! — it’s hard to know exactly what we should be eating.
To answer that, Victoria Boutenko, renowned green smoothie pioneer and authority, studied the dietary habits of large primates, our closest relatives. Because we share almost 99% of our DNA with our primates, she observed what they do in nature.
Of course, primates are largely vegetarian and eat a diet primarily consisting of greens, but gorillas don’t just chow down on a whole tree every day. Instead, they eat a wide variety of greens, consuming each one in small amounts on a daily basis.
Of course, as our society has created more and more processed foods, we’ve moved away from greens and have started eating an increasing amount of soft foods.
In fact, many parents today protect their children from having to chew anything, peeling apples and cutting the crusts off white bread. As we (and our kids) chew less, our species has devolved.
Even the open-minded kids and adults who are willing to eat salads often barely chew them before swallowing. While the insoluble fiber is still beneficial, the body simply cannot break down and utilize the nutrition in the greens without them being fully chewed.
The Crucial Role of Chewing Your Green Smoothie
To be digestible, greens need to be fully broken down into the tiniest particles, or “creamed” like wide-palate primates with strong jaws are able to do easily, any observable “chunks” of green.
However, if you chew up your salad and then right before you would normally swallow it, you instead spit it out and look at it, you’re likely to see a mouthful of torn-up greens, nowhere near “creamed” and ready for digestion like it needs to be.
That’s because over several generations of eating increasingly more refined foods, the human body has adapted by developing ever-narrower palates. (This helps to explain the meteoric rise in orthodontic work; more and more orthodontists are widening children’s palates.)
Our jaws have weakened. We no longer chew food to the extent that we need to in order to extract nutrition from denser foods like raw green vegetables, as primates with wide palates do. We are no longer capable of breaking down the most important foods in our diet: greens.
The One-Two Punch: Blending and Chewing
While you can’t rewind the “devolution” of the jaw, drinking a healthy green smoothie every day solves this problem. Your blender does all that breakdown work for you – pulverizing those leafy greens into tiny particles that your body has no problem digesting. It’s essentially “creaming” the greens, or predigesting them for you.
In fact, blended greens have been shown to increase nutrient absorption.1 Your blender breaks down greens so completely, it actually crushes the cell walls – which makes the nutrients highly bioavailable if you consume the greens right after processing them in your blender.
There’s only one caveat: To digest food, your body needs the important digestive juices and enzymes from your saliva to mingle with your food before it goes to your stomach. Since our digestive processes started long before blenders existed, chewing is the natural way in which saliva is produced.
So, if you chew your green smoothie fully in your mouth (even though it is smooth and liquefied), you’ll create saliva – along with the necessary enzymes and digestive juices – you’ll need for your stomach to digest all the nutrients from the greens in your smoothie.
More Health Benefits of Chewing
Along with creating saliva and enzymes, scientists have actually found a wide range of benefits associated with chewing, giving you even more reasons why you should chew your green smoothies. According to studies:
- Chewing longer and more thoroughly could help combat obesity. 2 One study found that participants who chewed food 40 times before swallowing ingested nearly 12% less than those who chewed just 15 times. They also ate fewer calories and had lower levels of the “hunger hormone” (ghrelin) after meals.
- Chewing can help to reduce stress. 3 The grinding and clenching involved in the physical process of chewing helps to soothe the body’s limbic system and autonomic nervous system. It also increases proteins and hormones in the brain and blood – all of which strongly suggest chewing can relieve stress.
- Chewing can make you feel less hungry, helping to control your appetite. 4 Five different studies found that when people chewed more, they reported feeling more satisfied after eating. Two additional studies found that adding more chews per bite also resulted in participants feeling fuller after eating.
There you have it: why you should chew your green smoothies! Adding this simple action to your favorite healthy habit can help you take it to the next nutritional level.
Not only will it allow your body to digest all the vitamins and minerals in your green smoothie, but you’ll blow off a little stress and may even eat a little less while feeling a little more satisfied. In no time at all, those little benefits can add up to a big difference in how you look and how you feel – and that’s something worth chewing on!
Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
- Kuntz, Sabine et al. “Uptake and bioavailability of anthocyanins and phenolic acids from grape/blueberry juice and smoothie in vitro and in vivo.” British Journal of Nutrition. Volume 113, Issue 7 14 April 2015 , pp. 1044-1055
- Jie Li, Na Zhang, Lizhen Hu, Ze Li, Rui Li, Cong Li, Shuran Wang; Improvement in chewing activity reduces energy intake in one meal and modulates plasma gut hormone concentrations in obese and lean young Chinese men–, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 94, Issue 3, 1 September 2011, Pages 709–716, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.015164
- Sato, S. & Slavicek, R. J. Stomat. The masticatory organ and stress management. Occ. Med. (2008) 1: 51. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12548-008-0010-8
- Sophie Miquel Kergoat et al. “Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis” Physiology & Behavior. Volume 151, 1 November 2015, Pages 88-96
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Posted in: Green Smoothies