More and more people are investing in blenders and juicers, some quite expensive, to help them meet their daily nutritional requirements and have a healthier life over all.
I myself have recently started to wonder whether I couldn’t be getting more variety and efficacy from my daily menu if I added a healthy juice or smoothie.
But blending and juicing fresh produce is quite the unnatural process, and that lead me to wonder, does blending destroy nutrients and fibre ?
You may be wondering the same thing, or you may already be using a blender on a daily basis to help you get a little more sustenance into your diet. So let us have a look at whether it is really worth going to the effort (and making the investment).
In order to answer this question of ours, we need to do three things:
- Define what makes fresh produce nutritious,
- Look at what has negative effects on these nutritious what we have defined as nutrition,
- Determine whether blenders introduce these negative effects to our foods.
Nutritional benefits of fresh produce
When considering your nutrient intake, it is important to remember that variety is key. You cannot get all nutrients, Macro and Micro, from a single type of food. The micronutrients we will concern ourselves with for the purposes of this investigation are:
- Vitamins – These are the organic compounds needed by our bodies for various normal functions. There are thirteen currently accepted as important and each has specific and particular jobs to do.
- Minerals – Not compounds, but basic chemical elements required for our bodies to keep doing what they do in an efficient manner.
- Fatty Acids – Also called Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) which is the Omega 3 and 6 your doctor keeps going on about, and rightly so, because they have many essential functions, most important of which is building cells and maintaining proper brain and nerve function.
The three macronutrients are the ones that we are all the most familiar with, yet fats will be excluded due to them already being included under “Fatty Acids”. They are:
- Proteins – Or as my one gym obsessed friend calls them “Bro-teins”. As they are essential in building and maintaining muscle, as well as various other organ tissues. It cannot be stored by the body, which makes protein intake very important.
- Carbohydrates – These are simply put fibres, sugars and starches which provide you with the fuel to keep going through the day.
Now that we know what these nutrients are, let’s have a look at what are their mortal enemies!
For our purposes, we are only going to look at those things involved in blending and juicing that can negatively affect the nutrients in our food, ignoring those that occur outside of this scenario.
First off, Vitamins
It turns out that vitamins are the easiest of the nutrients to destroy. Vitamins are damaged by a variety of things, including heat, UV light, oxygen exposure and water.
It is very likely that your blender or juicer will cause it to be exposed to all four. But do not start to worry just yet. It turns out that the amount and intensity of exposure needed to adequately degrade vitamins are relatively high.
This means that storing your juice or smoothie in the fridge for no more than a day means negligible losses and are almost just as nutritious as the fresh batch.
Furthermore, blending refrigerated produce can reduce any unnecessary heat, and making sure the blender is filled up properly means the vortex of air being sucked down is minimal, thus reducing oxygen exposure.
However, according to at least one organic chemist, if you want to get the full effect of your juice or smoothie, it is best consumed immediately.
Minerals, being the most basic building blocks of life, and basically the entire universe, are very difficult to destroy, and unless you are blending in a nuclear reactor, there is very little chance that you will be destroying any minerals in your kitchen.
If you do however, you will know immediately, as nuclear fission is something you will not be able to miss.
Oxidation of the basic minerals that are capable of the reaction takes much longer than any of the other components of your kale and carrot smoothie will last.
Third, Fatty Acids
One study did find that heat may have an effect on fatty acids, however the heat tested was much higher than that generated by your blender.
Other than that, there seems to be no evidence to support blending having a negative effect on fatty acids due to any other effects the commercial blender may introduce.
Here the question is less simple to address. Does a blender destroy carbohydrates? Yes and no. The heat treatment may degrade them over high temperatures, but many carbohydrates have a better effect and are more effectively used after being broken down.
Now carbs have gotten a bad rap for a long time, yet carbs are more than just simple or complex sugars, they are also the fibre that is so important to our diets. Thus keeping carbohydrates in a functioning state is a very important aspect of our dietary habits.
A last important point to note is that most of the important nutrients we are looking to benefit from in our fruits and vegetables are usually locked up in the skins and peels.
This means that when we peel them beforehand we are throwing away the very reason for trying to benefit from them in the first place.
Even worse, when we juice our fruits and vegetables, we only take the liquid substance out and throw away the solids -the skins and peels- which not only have a significant amount of nutrients still in them, but contains almost all of the dietary fiber.
So what is our conclusion after learning all of this?
Well, first of all, nutrients are too complex to just all be lumped together in one category. There are many different types of nutrients that have varying roles and different characteristics.
However the most common enemies of the nutrients in our foods are: Heat, UV light, Oxygen and Water.
The commercial blender you are looking to buy, or the juicer standing on your kitchen counter, are not really supposed to produce high enough quantities or intensities of any of those four to significantly rapidly degrade the nutrients in our food.
If you want to err on the side of caution or just want to squeeze every last possible benefit out of your menu, then here is what you can do:
Do not expose the produce to any more oxygen than is necessary. This also means avoid cutting them too small too long before hand. You can also fill your blender more to avoid a vortex that extends all the way down to the blades, meaning less surface area is in contact with the air.
Avoid too much heat by refrigerating your fresh produce before blending. Limit UV exposure by keeping the result of your blending endeavours away from direct light, and finally don’t use any more water than necessary when blending your smoothies.
So to summarise, does blending destroy nutrients and fibre?
Yes, to some extent.
However not quickly enough to mean any significant loss that you should be concerned with, and when it does break them down, it can actually be beneficial as it may just make it easier for our bodies to utilise.