My blender is my favorite kitchen appliance. I just love every part of it. There’s something so fulfilling about throwing all that fresh fruit into it and the smug feeling you get knowing that made a good decision.
At least, that was how I used to feel.
I was scrolling through one of my favorite juicing blogs the other week and I came across an article titled “Blending Destroy Nutrients”.
Initially, I laughed it off, thinking it must be some internet troll out there. How could my beloved blender be labeled as a nutrient destroyer?!?!
I clicked onto the link and my heart sank.
The article was quoting a doctor who claimed that blending caused up to 95% loss of nutrients!!!
This was something I couldn’t let slide. With a red hot passion, I set about gathering as much information I could on what can and can’t destroy nutrients in my food.
I know you can’t wait, so I’ll give you a quick summary before we dive in!!!
To sum it up, no blending doesn’t destroy nutrients. The process of chopping food into small pieces (similar to chewed food) does speed up the spoiling (or oxidation) of it which can, in time deplete the nutrients. But as long as you enjoy your smoothie relatively soon after blending, you’ll have nothing to worry about!
Understanding The Blending Process
The first thing I needed to get straight was the blending process itself. What is actually happening as the whole foods turn into a smoothie and how could this cause nutrient loss?
A blender is specifically designed to chop things up as finely as a blade can. Unlike a juicer, (which presses and chews up fruit) a blender makes use of very fast rotating blades. The conical shape of the jug creates a funnel type arrangement that directs the whole food down towards the bottom. As it gets there it encounters the whirling blades and is chopped so fine it turns to liquid.
By the very definition of a blade, it can’t chop anything finer than the thickness of the metal at its sharpest point. Even the sharpest stainless steel can’t manage to chop up nutrients like vitamins.
For example, the best surgical scalpel blades are 10 times blunter than the thickness it takes to cut cells in half and even the best blenders do not have scalpel blades.
So we don’t need to worry that the blender will chop up the micronutrients.
The Oxidation Process
The next suspect on our radar is oxidation. This process has been targetted a lot like some kind of mastermind when it comes to a smoothie, nutrient heist. There is a wide array of claims out there that oxidation destroys up to 95% of the goodness in a blended smoothie!
I have to admit, I was pretty concerned about this. The very definition sounds very technical and I’m not a trained nutritionist. Could there be an oxidation pandemic in the world of juicing that I have failed to notice?
As with the blending process, I figured I had to first understand what oxidation is so that I could decide whether or not it’s the bad guy here.
As it turns out, oxidation is just the exposure of the whole fruit and veggies to oxygen in the air. Just as we use oxygen, so do the enzymes in fruits and veggies. When you chop up the whole food it exposes the flesh to oxygen and this sets off enzymatic reactions. This reaction is what causes the browning color you see when an apple is chopped or bruised.
This process does indeed degrade away nutrients as the browned fruit spoils, but it takes a while to do so. The fine chopping of the blender speeds up this process and this is why a smoothie will go off faster than fresh fruit does.
The reality of oxidation is, it won’t significantly affect your smoothie if you drink it straight away. If you leave it out in the oxygen overnight then you may start to get issues.
I know some of you (like me) will be silently dying at this thought. I can’t make smoothies the night before a busy morning? Well don’t worry, there’s another option!
If you love meal prep then fear not, there is a way around this issue. Smoothies stored in the fridge, in a sealed container will keep for up to 24 hours. Another great option is the freezer where your smoothie will retain its goodness for up to 3 months.
What Can Destroy Nutrients?
So, apart from exposure to oxygen, what else could else affects the nutritional value of your green smoothie? Here are some things that may or may not affect your smoothie.
Raw foodies out there love to claim that cooking veg destroys all of the goodness. Is this claim as truthful as I once thought?
Heating fresh produce up to high temperatures can de-nature some vitamins and enzymes such as vitamin C. Surprisingly though, this isn’t always the result you get when cooking food.
Some veggies are largely made up of insoluble fiber which can be tough on your digestive system. Adding a little heat breaks up the tough cellular bonds and makes the nutrients in the food actually more available compared with raw. This paper suggests that boiling or steaming can help preserve antioxidants found in fruit and veg.
The heat has yet more beneficial effects when it comes to tomatoes. Heating them increases the amount of lycopene which is an extremely potent antioxidant as shown by this study here.
Where I used to believe that raw food was the only way to get all the goodness into my diet, I’m now a bit happier to steam my kale and carrots before blending.
High-pressure processing is a method where fruit juice is essentially pasteurized using high pressure as opposed to high temperatures. Whilst this kills any nasty concoction of bacteria that loves to grow on blended fruit, there seems to be a lot of claims out there that this also destroys nutrients.
I’ve done a bit of digging and it turns out that high-pressure processing actually preserves vitamins just fine as long as the food isn’t heated alongside this. This paper here has shown this to be the case.
A lot of fresh fruit juices that are sold as weight loss aids and cleansing packages are produced through high pressure means as well. Cold-pressed juice is one example, so I wouldn’t worry too much about pressure when it comes to choosing your next smoothie recipe.
Our glorious sun, although it brings light and life to this earth, is not so beneficial when it comes to preserving nutrients. Vitamins (like vitamin C) are light-sensitive so blended fruit should be kept out of direct sunlight.
Although I feel this kind-of goes without saying, leaving a smoothie on a hot window-sill is not a great idea!
Any dietitian will tell you, adding sweetness to the mix not only affects your blood sugar levels but it can also negate the health benefits found in a healthy smoothie. Because your body always reaches for the easiest thing to digest, sugar comes out on top every time. This is because sugar displaces nutritionally superior foods, depletes energy stores, and makes you more prone to hunger. The science backs this claim up as this study demonstrates.
If you want to keep your diet as healthy as possible, packed full of nutrients, and avoiding nasty blood sugar spikes then leave the white powder out of your next health drink.
To Cap This Off…
My beautiful blender is not the culprit when it comes to nutrient depletion. Although leaving smoothies to sit for a while can end up lowering their nutrient content, the actual blending process is not a nutrient thief!