Blending fruits and vegetables into nutritious smoothies and juices has become extremely popular in recent years. However, some people wonder if the high-speed blending process destroys the nutrients in produce. This article will examine whether blenders degrade vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds in fruits and veggies.
- 1 How do Blenders Work?
- 2 Effects on Different Nutrients
- 3 Best Blending Practices
- 4 Blender vs. Juicer: Which is Better?
- 5 Potential Downsides to Blending
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Conclusion
How do Blenders Work?
Blenders operate by using sharp blades to chop and pulverize ingredients at very high speeds. Powerful motors spin the blades at RPMs ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 or more. This high-velocity blending breaks down the cell walls and fiber in fruits and vegetables, releasing their nutrients and allowing you to drink them.
So while blending does break down produce on a physical level, that doesn’t necessarily mean their nutrients are being destroyed. The nutrients are simply being liberated from the plant cells.
Effects on Different Nutrients
Not all nutrients are affected equally by blending. Here’s a look at how well some common nutrients survive the blending process:
Vitamin C is very sensitive to heat, oxygen, and time. Exposure to these can cause vitamin C levels to decline.
Fortunately, blending itself does not expose produce to much heat or oxygen. Research shows vitamin C retention at around 90-100% in blended beverages made immediately before drinking.
However, leaving blended drinks to sit for hours before drinking allows more vitamin C destruction to occur. So for max vitamin C, it’s best to drink smoothies and juices right after making them.
Like vitamin C, vitamin A is sensitive to destructive elements like heat and oxygen. Also like vitamin C, vitamin A retains integrity well during blending.
One study found a blended carrot juice retained 100% of its vitamin A content when consumed immediately after blending.
Vitamin B Vitamins
The family of B vitamins includes thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and more. Research shows these all retain extremely well when produce is blended.
For example, one study found riboflavin retention to be 94% in blended carrot juice. Another found thiamine retention at 100% in blended apple juice.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in plant oils. It’s sensitive to oxygen exposure. Fortunately, studies show blending helps maintain vitamin E activity.
A fat-soluble vitamin found in leafy greens, vitamin K retention has been shown to be excellent at 100% in blended vegetables like kale.
Blending definitely changes the structure of fiber, breaking it down into smaller pieces. However, it does not destroy or eliminate the fiber content itself.
Blended beverages likely have somewhat different effects on digestion compared to whole produce. But they still provide fiber’s important benefits like supporting gut health.
Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are water-soluble and not vulnerable to blending. Studies demonstrate minerals are retained at or very close to 100% of their original levels after produce is blended.
Phytochemicals like carotenoids and polyphenols are plant compounds with disease-fighting antioxidant properties. Research finds minimal losses of these nutrients when blending, especially when consumed right after blending.
One study found a blended drink contained 87% of the original carotenoid levels and 100% of the polyphenols.
Best Blending Practices
Follow these tips to retain the most nutrients when blending produce:
- Blend at the highest speed your blender allows for the smoothest, most efficient breakdown of produce.
- Blend in short pulses to avoid overheating ingredients.
- Don’t leave blended smoothies or juices sitting for long periods before drinking.
- Add a squeeze of lemon juice to help keep vitamins C and A stable.
- Consider adding supplements like whey protein and probiotics that may deteriorate during blending.
- Wash produce well but don’t over-soak it, as water-soluble vitamins can leach out.
- Use fresh, ripe produce for the highest nutrient levels.
Blender vs. Juicer: Which is Better?
There’s an ongoing debate about whether blenders or juicers are better for preserving nutrients.
Juicers extract the liquid from produce and leave behind the fiber. This concentrates the vitamins and minerals into the juice.
But the process also exposes the juice to more oxygen. And some vitamins like vitamin C are extremely oxygen-sensitive.
Most research shows blenders and juicers yield similar vitamin and mineral levels. For example, one study found both juicing and blending spinach retained over 90% of vitamins C, E, and A, folic acid, and minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc.
So in terms of nutrient retention, blenders and juicers are likely comparable. The choice comes down to your personal preferences for fiber, texture, and convenience.
Potential Downsides to Blending
While blenders do a good job retaining most nutrients, there are a couple of potential downsides to keep in mind:
- Fiber content – Blending reduces produce fiber length, which may diminish some of fiber’s health benefits like supporting healthy cholesterol levels and digestive function.
- Nutrient absorption – Heating and blending breaks down plant cell walls. This may make some nutrients easier to absorb, but also easier to oxidize. Nutrients may be absorbed quicker than nature intends, spiking blood levels.
- Added sugars – It’s easy to blend in sugary mix-ins like fruit juices, ice cream, or syrups that boost smoothies’ calorie and sugar content.
- Hunger cues – Drinking calories don’t register with your brain the same way that chewing does. This may cause you to feel hungry again sooner after a liquid meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does blending destroy fiber?
Blending does not destroy the fiber in produce, but it does break it down into smaller particles. You still get the benefits of fiber for digestion and heart health, but blended drinks won’t be quite as filling.
Is it better to blend or juice vegetables?
Juicing removes all fiber, resulting in some vitamin loss but also very quick nutrient absorption. Blending keeps the fiber, retaining more vitamins but possibly blunting absorption. Overall both methods retain most nutrients, so choose based on your needs.
Should you blend fruits and vegetables together?
Yes, blending fruits and veggies together is fine. Getting a mix of produce ensures you get a wider range of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Is blending produce better than cooking it?
Cooking often destroys more nutrients than blending due to higher heat exposure. However, light steaming or sautéing can help make some nutrients easier to absorb. Enjoying both raw blended and cooked produce is recommended.
Does blending destroy enzymes?
Some enzymes may degrade during blending due to oxidation. But the body produces its own enzymes for digestion, so while blended enzyme content may be lower, the enzymes you need won’t be destroyed.
Should you peel fruits and vegetables before blending?
Most peels contain beneficial nutrients and fiber, so wash produce well but leave peels on when blending for the most nutrients. Exceptions are produced like pineapples, mangoes, avocados, and citrus fruits where peels are hard to digest.
Blenders are an extremely useful kitchen tool for increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables while also retaining most of their beneficial nutrients.
By maximizing the quality of your ingredients and following proper blending techniques, you can ensure your smoothies and juices will provide your body with a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants to support your health.