So, you’ve just started with your new diet that involves a ton of healthy ingredients, and you have realized that the fastest and the easiest way to consume all that health is through blending and juicing. But, as you look for a tasty recipe that involves kale, you stumble upon all sorts of warnings, like “juicing and blending is bad for you” and “blended foods lead to weight gain”. Stressful, right? All you want to do is eat and drink healthy foods to better yourself, but the challenges do not persist.
First of all, do not panic – these headlines are aimed towards extreme cases, and, while it is true that blending destroys some nutritional value of fruits and veggies, the situation is not that dire.
Now, let’s put some myths to rest! It is time to shed some light on this topic and get to the bottom of the ever-popular question – Will blending destroy food nutrients?
How Does Blending Work?
If I asked you to explain how a regular blender works, what would you say? Typically, the answer is along the lines of – a set of blades spins very fast to cut the food into smaller pieces. If you said something like this, you’d be right. Partially.
The thing about blenders and blender-based juicers that utilize rotating blades is that they use more than just cutting to process all that healthy food. Yes, there is more to it than just cutting really fast.
Once you get all your ingredients in a blender and turn it on, the larger chunks get cut into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces then get hit by two different treatments:
- Cutting – of course, since the blades are still spinning, the smaller pieces get cut as well
- Air bubble bombardment – this fun-to-pronounce phenomenon happens to the smallest pieces in the blender. The blades push the air around, making the liquid bubbly. These bubbles get between the tiny ingredient pieces and explode, thus breaking it into even smaller bits.
If you master the timing of these two processes, you get to enjoy the tastiest and the frothiest smoothies. But there are some things to avoid, and we will get to the bottom of it in a moment.
What to Avoid?
The sole process of blending (or juicing) is made simple with modern technology, that is true, but the devil is in the details. The simplicity of the process tells us to just put all our fruit and veggies into the blender bowl, cover it with the designated lid, and turn the blender on. Simple enough, right? But let me ask you this – How long do you leave it on? A minute? Five minutes? Ten maybe?
Here’s the kicker – blending and centrifugal juicers speed up food oxidation. Firstly, by cutting the ingredients the total surface of the plant enlarges multiple times, making it easier for the oxygen to get to the food. But that’s not where this chemical process ends. Remember the bubbles sent into the liquid by the blades? Well, these bubbles are full of, you’ve guessed it, air, i.e. oxygen.
To put things into simpler terms (because this is not biochemistry 101), here’s an example you have surely witnessed at least once in your life. Remember that time you didn’t eat the whole apple and it turned brown and its smell started pinching your nose a bit. That is the effect of oxidation. The carbohydrates from the apple got exposed to the air around through cutting. Now, imagine this happening over and over again, with the cutting being more and more aggressive as the fruit parts get smaller and smaller. This is exactly the reason why juiced and blended foods do not have a long shelf life (unless we use food-preserving additives).
Easy Does It
To be sure you get the best out of your blended food, do not overdo it while blending. Start in short bursts or 5 to 10 second time increments. Taste the juice (with the blender turned off, of course) and proceed in shorter bursts until you get the density you like.
You can just put the ingredients in and leave the blender on for several minutes, but by doing so you destroy a large number of nutrients from fruit and veggies. In short, avoid blending the food for longer than necessary!
Shelf Life of Blended Food
There is an ongoing debate about how long should you keep your blended juices in the fridge. Since the oxidizing rate goes up by breaking the ingredients into smaller bits and pieces, the shelf life is significantly shortened. The longer your shake or juice stays on the counter, the more nutrients get oxidized, which renders them a bit useless (besides the caloric value).
In contrast to masticators, centrifugal juicers and blenders make drinks with a short shelf life. The sooner you drink it the larger the chance of absorbing healthy nutrients. There is no clear indicator of how long you can keep the juice after blending, but I recommend you drink it ASAP. Masticators allow you to prep upfront, but centrifugal juicers sadly do not.
To avoid waste and throwing ingredients out, it would be best to plan on drinking the juice as soon as you make it. That is why portioning is important – remember, these juices are packed with calories despite the fact that they are in liquid form.
Fibers from Fruit and Veggies
Speaking of ingredients, it’s time to address the elephant (or elephants) in the room and see how blending affects them. Fibers are one of the main reasons why we need plants in our diet in the first place. Generally speaking, a food type will usually have one type or the other as dominant, and the fibers will often help other organs, not just the GI tract. Fibers exist in two forms: the ones we can process in our GI system (soluble) and the ones we can’t (insoluble). Each fiber type plays a role in keeping our bowel movements and digestion in check.
Soluble fibers help slow down nutrient absorption in the bowels. Essentially, soluble fibers help our body (and the good bacteria inside) cope with a large amount of nutrients we consume. Luckily, these fibers are able to survive the process of blending, and we can absorb them through juices. Not all soluble fibers survive, but a large amount does thanks to its solubility in water. By creating a solution with water, these fibers can’t be cut or destroyed by the blender easily.
Here’s a quick list of ingredients rich in soluble fibers: apples, strawberries, citrus fruit, all sorts of beans, peas, and lentils. Because soluble fibers do not get destroyed easily in the process of blending, consider putting some in your next healthy liquid snack.
This type of fibers does not exactly transform in your body, water or not (hence the name). But the role it plays is structural – it makes your stool bigger and more consistent, making it move better, and above all more regular.
Unfortunately, the insoluble fibers rarely survive a blender. A smaller amount will stay there, with the rest being cut and chopped up entirely by the powerful blades. However, the destroyed fibers should not do any harm to you and they should just pass through. The bottom line of the fiber story is – if you plan on blending your fruits and veggies, it would be best to consume insoluble fibers through other means. That is why juicers for carrots and beets come in the masticator form as well, allowing people who want to ingest insoluble fibers through drinks can benefit as well.
Some foods rich in insoluble fibers are whole grains (rice, oats, wheat, etc.), carrots, potatoes, celery, cucumbers, all sorts of fruit with edible seeds, and a whole lot more.
Since oats belong to the insoluble fiber type, they get altered in the blending process. But they do not get destroyed, nutritionally speaking. For example, bodybuilders put oats into their pre-workout shake to get the carb energy oats have. So, by blending them, you do not use the nutritional value from a caloric point of view.
What changes is the way the oats get absorbed? With the caloric value intact, the smaller oat bits get absorbed faster, thus spiking your insulin levels faster. The downside of blending oats is that you won’t get that fiber value – the insoluble fiber will get cut up and they will just pass through you.
If you decide to spice up your shakes with protein powder (whey, casein, or plant-based), you must be wondering whether or not blending will affect the protein. Since blending is more complex than people usually realize, this question is a valid one. Here’s the quick run-through.
Protein powder particles (no matter the type) are really small. These powders are pre-processed by the manufacturer, and they consist of 90% protein (or more) and the rest are amino acids with some dairy-based ingredients leftovers, with the exception of plant-based protein that has no dairy in it, of course.
Because the particles are so small, the only effect a blender has on them is the bubble effect I mentioned above. But it is not about the oxidation this time, because protein powder (at least the vast majority of them) cannot be easily oxidized by blending. The bubbles make the protein into a foamy frothy deliciousness without doing any harm to the nutritional value of it.
So, there’s no need to be afraid of adding protein powered to your blender – go for it and make it even more delicious!
Blenders and juicers are here to help us prepare bland and neutral food into tasty (and healthy) drinks. The nutritional value of the juices you make depends on several things like the type of plant, its ripeness, timing, etc. But one thing is certain – some nutrients will get destroyed in the process. You won’t get hurt, but you won’t benefit from them the same if you ate the food whole and raw. Blenders also allow you to discover new flavors and combine them in all sorts of ways. Experimenting is part of the fun!
I would like to leave you with one final tip – fruits, oats, veggies, protein are all fair game. Do not over-blend them, and try to get the insoluble fibers by eating them whole. And remember – moderation is key! Now go and treat yourself to a healthy glass of juice. Cheers!