I recently learned that blending fruits/vegetables with high powered machine may cause nutrition loss since in the grinding process, especially if the smoothie isn’t consumed right away. Is this true?
Do you recommend “masticating juicers” or any alternatives, which take out the content of the fruits slowly to keep the nutrition value? Will such processing using a juicer also remove the fibers from the juices?
Regarding nutrition loss, the first and most important thing to be aware of is that ALL food processing causes some nutrient loss. As soon as we pick a fruit or vegetable from the plant it is growing on, the process of nutrient loss begins. Nutrient loss is inevitable as a consequence of interacting with our food.
Unfortunately, some online health and nutrition personalities seem to think that it is somehow helpful to put down juicing and blending while ignoring the greatest food processing method that causes the most amount of nutrient loss — cooking. Juicing and blending are typically associated with healthy eating, yet these individuals think they are doing others a service by fear-mongering about nutrient loss during these processes.
Let’s put things in perspective and gain the context that is often missing in such discussions. If we want no nutrient loss, then we better be ready to live on a farm and eat fruits and vegetables straight from the plants they grow on when they are at their peak ripeness in their whole and unadulterated forms. Otherwise, picking, storing, transporting, and ALL food processing methods cause some nutrient loss.
- The earlier a fruit/vegetable was picked and the less ripe it was at the time of picking (common with most imported/exported foods today), the less it will develop its full nutritional potential, to begin with.
- Conventionally-farmed fruits and vegetables are generally lower in nutrient content than organically-farmed ones from the start.
- The longer the fruit/vegetable travels from its origin to its point-of-sale destination, the more nutrient loss.
- The longer the fruit/vegetable sits on a shelf, at a warehouse or store, the more nutrient loss.
- The longer the fruit/vegetable sits in your kitchen, the more nutrient loss.
- As soon as you peel or cut up fruits/vegetables, there is nutrient loss.
- Blending and juicing cause nutrient loss.
- The longer you cook fruits/vegetables, the more nutrient loss.
- The higher the heat used to cook fruits/vegetables, the more nutrient loss.
- Boiling foods, especially for a long time and in a lot of water, causes high nutrient loss.
- Baking foods, which relies on high heat for long durations, causes high nutrient loss.
- Grilling, roasting, and barbecuing all heavily damage the food and cause high nutrient loss.
- The longer a home-processed food (one that has been cooked, blended, or juiced) sits in your fridge, the more nutrient loss.
- All industrial food-processing methods, which in turn create all the different processed and ultra-processed foods that make up the greatest amount of products found in all grocery stores today, cause the MOST nutrient loss and the MOST nutritionally-inferior food.
All of these things impact the nutrient value of our food, and in the end, we can drive ourselves into stress and anxiety, obsessing about it all if we do not take an intelligent and balanced approach. So what can you do to make healthy and wise choices to get the most out of your food?
Awareness and Action
We must be aware that we cannot escape nutrient loss in food, especially in our modern-day society. However, the best way we can overcome this is to be aware of which foods offer the most nutrient density and learn how to minimize nutrient loss in those foods.
The most nutrient-dense foods are whole, plant foods. The best way to optimize their nutrient levels is to buy them fresh, seasonally, from local sources, and process them in your kitchen in the least destructive ways possible. The most nutritionally-compromised foods, often called dead foods and empty calorie foods, are all the industrially-processed packaged foods that make up the bulk of what is found in grocery stores, convenience stores, and most restaurants today. These are the products we will want to avoid when we become aware of how important proper nutrition is and how much it impacts the quality of our health.
Once you have this awareness, it is easy to know what action to take and where to put your time, effort, and money to get the most value and benefits from the food you eat. Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet is the best way to get the most nutrients from your food. Once you have this foundation, then do your best to minimize nutrient loss without sacrificing your mental health. Eating the right foods is more important than what you do with those foods. So, examine your priorities, your state of health, and your overall lifestyle to determine how flexible or strict you want to be in how you prepare your whole plant foods. Some people will choose to eat these foods in their mostly or entirely raw forms for most nutrient retention, while others will choose to take a more varied food processing approach that involves some cooking, blending, and juicing. The key is to take an intelligent and balanced approach when weighing the pros and cons of how you will choose to prepare and eat your whole, plant foods.
Blending versus Juicing
With all this in mind, let’s explore the food processing methods of blending and juicing. For starters, blending and juicing are two very different food processing methods.
- Blending takes any whole food, be it fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds, and liquefies them. (From being in a solid form, the food becomes paste- or liquid-like.) The final product, a smoothie, sauce, or nut/seed butter, contains the nutrition profile of the original food, including the fiber it is made of.
- Juicing is only suitable for water-rich fruits and vegetables, as it extracts their watery content to create a liquid substance called a “juice.” During this process, the fiber of the fruit and vegetable is removed and held back by the juicer. The final product, a juice, only contains the water content and some nutrient content of the fruit and vegetable that was juiced without the fiber.
Therefore, a smoothie is still considered a whole food, whereas juice is not. A juice is just an extract of the original whole food.
When it comes to nutrient loss, the quality of one’s blender and the duration of blending will slightly increase or decrease nutrient loss. Generally, the shorter the blending time, the better. High-powered blenders are more efficient at liquifying the food and typically only require about 15 to 30 to create something like a green smoothie. Low-powered blenders take longer to break down the food, if they can even do so properly, taking about 45 to 60 seconds or more to blend the same ingredients. Generally, blending for the shortest time needed to make a proper smoothie and not overheating the ingredients, which happens with prolonged blending times, is the best approach. Some blender enthusiasts will claim that ‘this’ or ‘that’ blender creates more oxidation and nutrient loss. Yet, you will be hard-pressed to find quality research that can consistently back up such claims without any conflicts of interest.
In the end, remember, you are already eating the right foods - whole plant foods, and if you choose to blend them to eat more of them or because they are easier for you to eat this way, then don’t give it a second thought. Whatever nutrient loss may result from any blending is minimal or negligible in the grand scheme of things and in the context of an already nutrient-dense, whole-food, plant-based diet. And if someone is eating a processed food diet or the Standard American Diet full of animal foods, refined grains, oils, sugars, and salt, then any fruit/vegetable smoothie is a welcome addition and better than any other foods they are eating. No matter how you look at it, you always benefit when you eat fruits and vegetables, whether in their whole form or blended form.
When it comes to juicers, the quality of one’s juicer will also impact the quality of the juice and its nutrient content to some degree. There are two types of juicers commonly available: masticating and centrifugal juicers. Masticating juicers are known to be gentler and slower in how they extract the juice, which is said to create a better juice with more nutrient retention. Centrifugal juicers remove the juice faster, in a more destructive manner, and are said to make a more nutritionally inferior juice. There is some research from several studies to support these claims, and if one wants to juice regularly at home, then a masticating juicer would be the better choice. However, such juicers are more expensive and more time-consuming to clean, which may not make them ideal options for everyone. Even if one had to get a centrifugal juicer, there are still nutrient benefits in that juice that make it a worthwhile consideration. Again, as shared earlier in this article, it is all about your priorities and what is most feasible for you to do to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Ultimately, juices are NOT a replacement for whole fruits and vegetables, the way smoothies can be, and should not be relied on for that purpose. They are best used as a “supplement” or a “boost” or for healing purposes during certain illnesses, fasts, and diets.
Nutrient loss in food is inevitable, and context is important to make smart decisions so one does not add unnecessary stresses and worries to their life. The most important things to focus on are getting the highest quality foods - local, seasonal, fresh, and organic as much as possible and creating a healthy foundational diet of whole plant foods that is always rich in nutrients. Then, decide how and to what degree you want to process those foods in your kitchen when making your meals for optimum satisfaction, enjoyment, and convenience. When high-quality, whole, plant foods are obtained and minimally or gently processed at home, the final nutrient loss is minimal in comparison to the nutrition and health benefits that one gets from eating these foods in the first place.