Is it unhealthy to blend fruit?

Blending fruit into smoothies and juices has become an incredibly popular way to get more servings of fruits and vegetables. Proponents argue that blending breaks down produce to make the nutrients more absorbable. Others claim that blending strips away important fiber. So is it actually unhealthy to blend your fruit?

The Potential Benefits of Blending Fruit

There are some potential benefits that come specifically from blending produce into juices and smoothies:

  • Blending breaks down produce on a cellular level, releasing the nutrients so they are easier to absorb. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes becomes more bioavailable when tomatoes are cooked or blended.
  • It’s an easy way to help people increase fruit and vegetable intake if they struggle to eat whole produce. Drinking produce can help people reach the recommended daily intake.
  • Blending concentrates nutrients and calories. This can benefit people who need to gain weight or increase calorie intake.
  • Some research has found improved glycemic response when consuming blended fruit instead of whole fruit. This suggests blending may be beneficial for blood sugar management.

Potential Downsides of Blending

However, there are also some potential downsides that come with blending fruits and veggies:

  • Blending can destroy insoluble fiber since it breaks down the plant’s cell walls. Insoluble fiber provides “roughage” to add bulk to stools and promote regularity.
  • The high concentration of sugars and calories in blended produce can lead to quick spikes and crashes in blood sugar when consumed in excess.
  • Chewing produce can stimulate digestion and metabolism. Blending removes this benefit.
  • It’s easy to consume extra servings and calories when drinking blended produce rather than eating whole fruit.
  • Important phytochemicals and antioxidants can be lost or damaged by high-speed blending oxidation.

Fiber Content: Whole vs. Blended

One of the biggest concerns with blending is the loss of fiber. Fiber has many health benefits including supporting gut health, heart health, weight management, and blood sugar control.

To evaluate how blending impacts the fiber content, we can look at the nutrition information for an apple in both whole and blended forms:

Nutrition Facts 1 medium apple (whole) 1 cup applesauce (blended)
Calories 95 100
Fiber 4.4g 3g
Sugar 19g 20g

As you can see, the whole apple provides significantly more fiber. Blending the apple into applesauce reduces the fiber content by about one third. The same would apply to smoothies made with whole fruits versus blended fruits and vegetables.

Tips to Maximize Nutrition When Blending

If you want to enjoy smoothies, shakes, and other blended drinks, there are some ways to maximize nutrition:

  • Use whole fruits and vegetables instead of juices whenever possible. Leaving the peels on provides more fiber.
  • Include sources of protein and healthy fats like Greek yogurt or avocado. This helps balance out the blood sugar response.
  • Aim for smoothies around 300 calories. Larger smoothies can cause blood sugar spikes.
  • Add supplements like psyllium husk, flaxseed, or chia seeds to boost fiber.
  • Blending too long at high speeds can damage nutrients. Blend at low speeds for less time.
  • Enjoy whole fruits and veggies throughout the day in addition to blended drinks.

Should You Avoid Blending Altogether?

For most people, enjoying the occasional blended fruit drink likely won’t be harmful – especially if you follow the tips above. However, there are some cases where blending may be better to limit or avoid:

  • Diabetes: People with diabetes need to be cautious with smoothies and juices due to the concentrated sugars and carbs. It’s important to balance blended drinks with non-starchy vegetables, protein and fat.
  • Digestive issues: People prone to constipation may want to limit high-fiber whole fruits and opt for blended drinks to ease digestion.
  • Overweight/obesity: Blended drinks make it easy to consume a lot of calories quickly. Stick to whole fruits and veggies to feel full on fewer calories.
  • Kidney disease: People with kidney disease need to limit potassium from high-potassium fruits and veggies like bananas and spinach.

Pregnant women should take caution with high-mercury fruits like pineapple and mango. Young children under age four are at risk of choking on whole fruits and veggies.

The Bottom Line

Overall, blending fruits and vegetables has some benefits – it breaks down fibers and nutrients, provides an easy way to increase intake, and can concentrate beneficial compounds. However, there are also downsides, especially the loss of insoluble fiber.

For most people, enjoying blended produce in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet with plenty of whole foods is fine. But people with certain medical conditions like diabetes or digestive issues may want to limit or avoid blended drinks.

Maximize the nutritional value by blending at low speeds, leaving peels on, adding healthy fats and protein, and sticking to smaller portions. Drink blended beverages along with plenty of whole fruits and vegetables. This provides a balance of blended and unblended produce to obtain benefits from both.

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