Blending fruits and vegetables into smoothies and juices has become an increasingly popular way to increase produce consumption. Proponents of blending tout the convenience and improved palatability of consuming produce in liquid form. However, some have raised concerns that the blending process may destroy nutrients and phytochemicals found in whole fruits and vegetables. In this article, we will examine the effects of blending on the nutrient content of produce and help you determine if you lose nutrients when blending.
Effects of Blending on Nutrients
Blending breaks down the plant cell walls and fiber content of fruits and vegetables. This makes the nutrients more accessible for absorption in the body. However, the high speed and heat generated from blending may also degrade heat-sensitive vitamins.
Most water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins are unaffected by blending. However, blending may result in some loss of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K. The degree of nutrient loss depends on the type of blender and blending time. High-speed blenders like Vitamix retain more nutrients compared to regular blenders. Longer blending times and higher speeds result in greater oxidation and nutrient degradation.
Minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium are stable compounds that remain unaffected by the blending process. Blending does not result in any significant loss of minerals.
Phytochemicals like carotenoids, polyphenols and glucosinolates in fruits and vegetables provide health benefits. Some phytochemicals are sensitive to heat, light and air exposure. Prolonged blending may degrade some heat-sensitive phytochemicals like carotenoids. However, blending also breaks down plant cell walls, which improves the bioaccessibility of phytochemicals. Overall, blending results in minimal losses of health-promoting phytochemicals.
Blending fruits and vegetables does not degrade or destroy the insoluble and soluble fiber content. Fiber remains intact whether produce is blended or eaten whole. However, blending liquefies the fiber, which affects its physiologic functions. The gut likely processes liquid fiber differently than intact fiber in whole produce. But blended smoothies and juices remain excellent sources of dietary fiber.
Nutrient Comparison of Blended vs. Whole Produce
Research studies directly comparing the nutrient content of blended and whole produce have found minimal differences:
|Study||Produce Used||Main Findings|
|Castillejo et al. (2018)||Tomato, carrot, broccoli||No significant differences in antioxidant activity and phenolic content between blended and whole produce|
|Fernández-García et al. (2009)||Watermelon juice vs. whole||No significant losses of carotenoids from blending|
|Lemmens et al. (2009)||Orange juice vs. whole orange||No major effects of blending on phenolic content and antioxidant capacity|
|Rodríguez-Roque et al. (2015)||Apple, apricot, peach, pear, nectarine, plum, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry||Overall no significant differences in antioxidant activity between juice and whole fruit|
These studies demonstrate that blending does not drastically degrade nutrients and phytochemicals in produce. Any losses are minor and do not outweigh the benefits of increased produce intake from drinking blended fruits and vegetables.
Tips to Maximize Nutrition When Blending
Follow these simple tips to retain maximum nutrients when making blended produce:
– Use a high-speed blender like Vitamix, Ninja or Blendtec. The powerful motors and blades minimize oxidation.
– Avoid prolonged blending times. Blend just long enough to achieve the desired smooth consistency.
– Add a little lemon juice. The vitamin C in lemon juice helps preserve other heat-sensitive nutrients.
– Include herbs, spices and nuts. They provide additional nutrients and phytochemicals.
– Use organic produce when possible. Organic produce has a higher antioxidant content.
– Consume blended drinks immediately. Nutrient content degrades over time after blending.
– Wash produce well but don’t peel. Many nutrients are concentrated in or near the skin.
– Rotate greens in smoothies. Vary greens like kale, spinach and swiss chard for a broader range of nutrients.
Should You Blend Fruits, Vegetables, or Both?
Both fruits and vegetables can be blended into nutritious drinks. Here is a comparison of their nutrient compositions:
|Vitamin C||High in citrus fruits and berries||High in leafy greens, peppers, broccoli|
|Vitamin A||Found in orange and yellow fruits||High in carrots, sweet potatoes, greens|
|Folate||Low||High in leafy greens|
|Potassium||High in bananas, prunes, apricots||High in potatoes, spinach, mushrooms|
|Magnesium||Low||High in leafy greens, beans, nuts|
|Fiber||Moderate in apples, berries||High in greens, broccoli, carrots|
Ideally, include both fruits and veggies in blended drinks to obtain a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Fruits provide vitamin C and antioxidants, while vegetables offer folate, fiber, potassium and magnesium. Combining fruits and veggies also enhances the flavor.
Potential Downsides of Excessive Blending
While blending optimizes nutrition from produce, over-reliance on blended drinks can have some disadvantages:
– Blending removes the chewing process, which may deter hunger less than whole produce.
– Blending concentrates calories and sugar, so portion control is important. One large blended drink can provide a meal’s worth of calories.
– The fiber matrix in blended produce may not optimally support gut health compared to intact whole produce.
– It’s easier to over-consume blended produce calories compared to eating whole fruits and veggies.
– Blending condenses produce into a dense beverage, so nutrient absorption may differ from whole produce.
– Blending eliminates the tactile stimulation and satiety signals from chewing whole produce.
For optimal health, it’s best to continue eating whole fruits and vegetables in addition to blended drinks. Over-relying on blended produce at the expense of whole fruits and veggies may negatively impact satiety, calorie intake, gut health and nutrition. Moderation and variety is key.
Blending fruits and vegetables results in minimal losses of nutrients and phytochemicals compared to eating produce whole. Any nutrient degradation from blending is counterbalanced by increased produce consumption and bioaccessibility. Include both fruits and veggies in blended beverages to maximize nutrient diversity. Always prioritize whole produce as well for optimal nutrition and health. Enjoy blended drinks in moderation alongside a diet high in a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins. With some basic precautions, blending is an excellent strategy to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.