Smoothies and fruit juices have become increasingly popular in recent years as an easy way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Many people use blenders to make smoothies packed with frozen fruit, fruit juice, yogurt, and other ingredients. But are these blender drinks as healthy as eating whole fruits and veggies? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of blender fruit drinks.
Pros of Blender Fruit Drinks
There are some potential benefits to using blended fruits and vegetables:
- Increased intake of fruits and veggies. Blending allows you to easily consume more produce than you could typically eat whole. This can help increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Easy absorption. The mechanical breakdown from blending helps release nutrients and makes them easier to absorb. Some nutrients like carotenoids are bound to the plant fiber which blending helps unlock.
- Satiety. Blended smoothies and juices can be filling due to their thickness and use of ingredients like Greek yogurt. This can keep you satisfied for hours.
- Convenience. It’s quick and easy to whip up a smoothie. Having frozen blended drinks on hand makes it convenient to get your daily dose of produce.
- Greater variety. Blending allows you to mix and match fruits and veggies along with boosters like nuts, seeds, nut butters, and protein powders for a nutrient powerhouse.
Cons of Blender Fruit Drinks
However, there are some downsides to relying too heavily on blended produce:
- Lower fiber content. The blending process breaks down the plant fiber that occurs naturally in whole fruits and vegetables. This can significantly reduce the fiber you get compared to eating produce whole.
- Higher calorie density. Blending concentrates the natural sugars in produce. This can make blended drinks higher in calories ounce for ounce compared to eating the whole fruit or vegetable.
- Potential added sugars. Many smoothies have liquid sugars added in the form of fruit juices, honey, agave, etc. These significantly boost the sugar content.
- Higher carbs. Blending produces a drink containing only the carb-containing pulp of the fruit or vegetable. Without the fiber, these carb-rich drinks can spike blood sugar.
- Lost nutrients. Some vitamins like vitamin C and folate break down over time when exposed to oxygen. So pre-made blended drinks may have lost some nutrients by the time you drink them.
Fiber Content in Whole Fruits vs. Blender Drinks
One of the biggest issues with relying on blended produce is the loss of fiber content. Fiber is an indigestible carb that acts as a prebiotic to feed healthy gut bacteria. It also promotes satiety and has benefits for heart health, cholesterol, blood sugar control, weight maintenance, and more. Here’s a comparison of the fiber content from various fruit in whole vs. blended form:
|Fruit||Fiber in 1 Cup Whole||Fiber in 1 Cup Blended|
|Apple||4.4 g||1.5 g|
|Banana||3.1 g||1.6 g|
|Orange||3.1 g||0.5 g|
|Strawberries||3.3 g||1.9 g|
|Peach||2.3 g||1.4 g|
As you can see, blending causes a loss of at least 50% of the fiber content on average compared to eating the whole fruit. For things like oranges, nearly 85% of the fiber is lost during blending. Over time, consistently favoring blended fruit over whole fruit can significantly reduce your daily fiber intake.
Sugar Content in Whole Fruits vs. Blender Drinks
Blending also tends to increase the sugar content by breaking down the cellular structure of fruits and concentrating the sugars in liquid form. Here’s a comparison of the grams of sugar in one cup of select whole fruits versus blended:
|Fruit||Sugar in 1 Cup Whole||Sugar in 1 Cup Blended|
|Banana||14.4 g||17.4 g|
|Grapes||15.4 g||20.7 g|
|Mango||17.0 g||21.8 g|
|Orange||11.7 g||13.6 g|
|Strawberries||7.4 g||9.6 g|
Blending typically increases the sugar content by at least 20%, and sometimes as much as 50% compared to whole fruit. Combine this sugar concentration with any added sweeteners like fruit juice or honey, and a blended fruit smoothie can end up much higher in sugar than you might think.
Making Healthier Blender Drinks
Pure fruit and vegetable smoothies do have some merit when consumed sensibly as part of an overall healthy diet. Here are some tips for balancing blended drinks with whole foods for the best nutrition:
- Use whole fruits and veggies as the base. Stay away from juice concentrates or purees which lack fiber.
- Add greens like spinach or kale which pack extra nutrients.
- Include seeds, oats, chia, or flax for extra fiber and healthy fats.
- Sweeten minimally with just a half banana or a few berries if needed.
- Use primarily unsweetened almond milk or low-fat dairy for added creaminess.
- Limit blended drinks to one per day and round out meals with fiber-rich whole foods.
- Drink within a few hours as nutrients degrade over time.
- Consider blending then adding back some of the discarded fruit or vegetable fiber to boost nutrition.
The Bottom Line
Freshly made smoothies and juices can be a healthy addition to your diet when consumed in moderation. They provide an easy way to increase your intake of beneficial fruits and veggies. However, fiber is lost during the blending process – so strive to get additional fiber from whole food sources throughout your day. And be mindful of limiting added sugars. With some adjustments, blended drinks can be a nutritious and refreshing part of your routine!