Hey Smoothie-Loving Mamas!
I know you’re as smart as you are sexy, so I’m sure it’s no surprise that fruit and vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Like many of you, I love smoothies! After learning about green smoothies just seven sweet years ago and incorporating them into my life (and reaping instant benefits), I wanted to know if this was the best way to give my body these nutrients—or if I was missing out on some of those beautiful vitamins and minerals by blending them up.
So, I dug deeper—and this is what i found…
The top five “powerhouse foods” are greens. So blending them up into smoothies (or soups or sauces) must be good, right?
Well, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that…
See, when we blend up our food, we’re breaking the cells down in a big way, so we can pour that nutrition into our bloodstream. Chewing is good, but blending is better in terms of efficiency and absorption. In that sense, yes, blending is good.
But—and this is a big but—if we absorb all that nutrition and none of it makes it to our colon, we might be starving our friendly microbes.
Intact grains, beans and nuts are arguably better for us than bread, hummus and nut butters, because no matter how well we chew them, intact food particles make it down to our colon—and that’s where they can treat our good bacteria to a healthy meal. In that case, grinding up all our grains, beans and nuts could deprive our (very important) gut flora of their daily nutrients.
I’m sure you—like me—want to know if the same goes for fruits and veg.
It seems that certain phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables may protect against colon cancer when they’re not absorbed in the stomach or small intestine and end up in our colon to act asprebiotics. As hard and long as we may chew, they stay stuck to that fiber.
If we blend it all up, could we prematurely detach these key phytonutrients?
I’m happy to tell you that the answer is no! Even after five minutes in a high-speed blender, these guys stay stuck fast to the fiber for a free ride down to our colon.
We could do (and researchers have done) experiments on people with ileostomy bags, draining the small intestine to show that most of the phytonutrients make it out intact. So keep blending those breakfast smoothies—they’re getting you what you need.
There’s a bit more to the story with grains, though…
Just like blending improves digestive efficiency for fruits and vegetables, the same can be true for grains. However, in this case that efficiency could cause a blood sugar spike. For example, our insulin levels will rise gently in the four hours after we eat a half cup of brown rice—totally normal blood sugar. If we eat the same quantity of brown rice, but ground into flour (like a creamed hot cereal)? Double the blood sugar—double the insulin spike. Same quantity—different form.
This is just one more reason that whole grains are a healthier choice than whole grain flours. Chewing thoroughly, for these foods, is better for our insulin levels than blending. Again, let’s take rice as an example: smaller rice particles (through chewing) leave our stomach faster—and produce steadier blood sugar and insulin levels—than ground rice flour.
Unlike with grains, blending legumes doesn’t seem to alter their impact on blood sugar response. And, high fiber beans may even blunt blood sugar spikes. Blended beans too? Yep, go crazy on the hummus!
Want simple, delicious meal-planning options for your best health and nutrition? That’s why I’m here. Check out Wild Nutrition: Your 30-Day Revolution to Plant-Based Vitality!
K M Tuohy, L Conterno, M Gasperott, R Viola. Up-regulating the human intestinal microbiome using whole plant foods, polyphenols, and/or fiber. See comment in PubMed Commons belowJ Agric Food Chem. 2012 Sep 12;60(36):8776-82.