To Smooth Or Not To Smooth? Do You Really Need Another Kitchen Contraption?

If you have a television, you've seen them - those infomercials for the latest incarnation of the household blender - the high performance or emulsifying blender. Montel Williams, whose struggle to manage his multiple sclerosis with diet and exercise hade been widely publicized, brings his high performance emulsifying HealthMaster Elite Blender to the market making strong arguments for the case of proper nutrition in managing chronic illness and maintaining optimal health. Vitamix is a time-tested and powerful brand of home and professional blenders that can run into the hundreds of dollars. People who own them swear by them. The NutriBullet is widely advertised as a "nutrition extractor" and touts the benefits of extracting all available nutrients from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds via emulsification. So how are these high-performance blenders different from conventional blenders and juicers?

Most home blenders will make a good smoothie as long as the ingredients are fairly soft and pliable. You know - the usual stuff like bananas and pineapple. Typically, you could put some yogurt; milk, soy or almond milk; or even coconut water in this type of concoction. Depending on the relative wattage of the machine, your conventional home blender is adequate for this type of drink. But will it completely emulsify tough kale stems or pulverize flax or chia seeds? It really depends on the blender. I'm sure many do a good job. If it can crush ice, it can probably handle kale stems.

The greatest difference between a blender and a juicer is the process of "extraction." The pulp, skin, and seeds of the fruits and vegetables processed in a juicer are separated from the pure "juice" and typically discarded. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fiber and other nutrients in the discarded pulp that would be better off ingested. You can certainly add that pulp to other foods like soups, stews, or baked goods, but many people just throw it away along with any nutrition it contains. It's a waste of good fiber. And the machines tend to be difficult to clean.

Enter the high performance blender models. In my estimation, it is not the process  that is so dramatically different as the philosophy behind complete emulsification. Instead of preparing a sweet, high-calorie dessert-like smoothie, you make one consisting of veggies, fruits, and nuts, seeds, or other additions to boost the nutrition level of the drink. By pulverizing the matter so finely, it is not necessary to separate the pulp from the juice so you can maximize the nutrition from the foods and suck them all up in a straw. And a high performance blender will pulverize seeds like blackberry and flax seeds to best release their vital nutrients. This heavy-duty blending and pulverizing helps the nutrients to be very readily absorbed and used by the body. This emulsified food is easily digested. And by using so-called "super foods" like organic kale, blackberries, goji berries, walnuts, etc., you can get those five servings or more a day in an easy, compact liquid meal or snack. You also get more water into your diet via these smoothies. AND the foods are raw, so you do not lose nutritional value via the cooking process. Nor do you have the added calories of fats or excess sodium that may be added to vegetables in their preparation. In addition to getting great nutrition from raw whole foods, replacing these super food smoothies for higher-calorie or meals containing more refined foods higher in sugar, salt, and fat can help to manage weight.

Case in point: I turned 50 last year and my body has been going through some normal age-related changes for some time, including an apparent need for fewer calories. In other words, I'd gained a few pounds. To compound that, on our recent trip to Italy (please check out my CarmineRed blog to read of my pursuit of dual U.S.-Italian citizenship my husband and I explored far too much with our mouths. Everything just tastes good there! In addition to the beautiful, whole and rustic foods that comprise the Mediterranean diet, there are many wonderfully-tasty foods prepared with white flour and lots of sugar like pasta, pizza, gelato, and amazing pastries (really the best I've had anywhere). So we allowed ourselves to indulge in those things, as we were on vacation after all, and I picked up another few pounds. Before I knew it, I had gained about ten pounds over the course of eight months or so. Not good, and certainly not good for optimal health.


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