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Does blending fruits and vegetables take away nutrients?

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a common health goal, and smoothies and juices made from produce are an increasingly popular way to try to meet it. But some claim that blending produce destroys the nutrients, negating the health benefits. Is this true? Let’s take a look at what happens when you put produce in a blender.

How blending affects nutrients

Blending breaks down plant cell walls, releasing some nutrients for better absorption but potentially exposing others to damage from heat and oxygen. The overall impact depends on the specific nutrient and produce used.

Vitamins

Most vitamins are reasonably stable during typical blending. However, vitamin C is sensitive to heat, oxygen, and alkaline environments. Exposure to these can cause losses of 15-35% or more.[1] Light also degrades vitamin C over time.

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals like carotenoids and polyphenols act as antioxidants in the body. Blending and juicing tend to increase the extractability and bioavailability of carotenoids.[2] However, some polyphenols bind to plant cell walls, so blending may break these bonds and degrade them.[3]

Minerals

Minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium are quite stable during blending. Some insoluble fiber is broken down, potentially increasing mineral absorption.[4] Oxalic acid can bind minerals like calcium and make them insoluble, but blending breaks down some of these bonds.[1]

Impact of blending method

Not all blenders are created equal when it comes to retaining nutrients!

Blending vs. juicing

Juicing extracts the liquid from produce, leaving behind the insoluble fiber. This fiber slows digestion, regulating the absorption of nutrients and phytochemicals. Without it, blood sugar and antioxidant levels spike then crash.[5]

High-speed vs. low-speed

High-speed blenders like Vitamix blend produce at hundreds of miles per hour with sharp blades that generate friction heat. Slower blenders like Oster use less force and cause less oxidation and heating.

Duration

The longer produce is blended, the more cell walls are broken and nutrients exposed to air, heat, and friction. Blending small batches for less time minimizes losses.

Temperature

Heat from friction and hot produce can degrade nutrients. Using cold ingredients and blending for less time keeps temperatures down.

Tips for maximizing nutrition

Follow these best practices to get the most from your blended produce:

  • Use ripe produce – it has the most vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Blend for the minimum time needed.
  • Add liquid to create smooth texture faster.
  • Use ice to chill ingredients before blending.
  • Consume blended drinks promptly to avoid vitamin C losses.
  • Alternate juicing with eating whole produce to get both fiber and concentrated juices.
  • Include green leaves which are rich in phytochemicals.

Whole vs. blended comparison

To summarize the impact blending has on nutrient levels, here is a comparison of whole vs. blended for key nutrients:

Nutrient Whole Blended
Vitamin C 100% 65-85%
Carotenoids 100% 120-150%
Polyphenols 100% 80-100%
Minerals 100% 100-125%

Key Takeaways

  • Blending does result in some vitamin, phytochemical, and antioxidant losses due to heat, oxygen, and the breakdown of plant cell structures.
  • However, blending also increases the extractability and bioavailability of many nutrients.
  • Blending techniques and produce choices significantly impact nutrient retention.
  • Following best practices can maximize nutrition when blending produce.
  • Alternating whole produce and blended drinks and smoothies provides a good balance of fiber and concentrated nutrients.

Conclusion

Does blending produce destroy nutrients? There is certainly some loss of sensitive vitamins and antioxidants when produce is blended. However, blending also makes many nutrients more bioavailable by breaking down plant cell walls. With smart techniques like minimal blending time, cold ingredients, and alternating whole produce with smoothies, it is possible to maximize nutrition. Overall, enjoy blended drinks in moderation as part of a healthy diet focused on whole fruits, vegetables, and other minimally processed foods.