If I had a nickel for every time I was asked at one of my roadshows, “What’s so great about the Blendtec ?” or “Why is this so much better than the blender I have?,” I wouldn’t actually have to sell the darn things. These and others like them are certainly legitimate questions – usually asked of me after seeing a price tag of nearly $400 on something that looks not a lot unlike any regular household blender you see in stores everywhere. Generally, my answer is that with any well-made high-performance blender, your money is primarily being spent on superior horsepower, which is directly responsible for both its versatility and the healthier results it produces.
Before I delve into more detail about this, however, I’d like to make this disclaimer: I am not an engineer, doctor, nutritional scientist, or dietician. What I am is a guy who is extremely experienced in using top-of-the-line blenders. Certainly I know enough to discuss them, but understand my expertise is in how to use them, not in the engineering that goes into making them, nor the science behind the results they produce.
A Quick Note on Horsepower
When I speak of high-performance blenders, I am referring to those that contain at least a 2 peak horsepower-rated motor which will deliver a minimum of at least 1 true horsepower of mechanical energy. Horsepower is simply a term used as a standard measurement of power – in this case, the power of an electrical appliance. A blender’s horsepower rating (what is marked on the machine and/or advertised by the manufacturer) is most often used to describe its power output capability. However, its true performance power is ultimately determined by calculating the strength (amperage) of the electrical current coming into the machine plus factoring in efficiency loss in converting the electrical energy into working energy (for example, how well the machine cools itself during continual usage).
Without getting bogged down in the engineering minutiae, generally a blender does not run continually at its listed horsepower rating (although it certainly can for brief intervals – at startup, for example). Instead, a well-built blender will usually deliver 60% to 75% of listed peak HP in continuous performance power – 1.2 to 1.5 horsepower for a 2 peak horsepower blender, for example. And this is what is really important. A blender that delivers this kind of actual power (over 1 HP) is not only infinitely more diverse than one you’d pick up at a local department store, but is also perhaps the greatest instrument we have in extracting the maximum available health properties our whole foods afford us.
In my shows at wholesale clubs I demonstrate as many different uses for the blender as I possibly can, but quite often it’s a customer who will introduce to me at least one use for it that I’d never previously considered. One gentleman in Raleigh, North Carolina, wanted it specifically for making his own dog food out of chicken – bones and all. Another in Orlando, Florida, wanted to know if it could be used to make pulp for his paper-making hobby. A lady in Asheville, North Carolina, brought to me a bag of what looked like nothing but rocks and sticks and asked if we could put them in the blender. After grinding them to dust her search was finally over for the machine she’d been looking for to make the Chinese herbal medicines she prescribes with her natural healing practice.
Along with their design, it’s the power of these machines, as well as the blade speeds they generate, which allow them to be put to use in the manners mentioned above. These features are also directly responsible for the more “practical” uses people find for them at home. With an ability to spin at over 25,000 revolutions per minute (RPM), the blades of these blenders and ingredients spinning against them can together create enough friction to make a hot soup (it’s actually possible to boil liquid in these machines, though for nutritional reasons you certainly wouldn’t want to do this with soup). Using considerably less blade speed (and, hence, creating much less friction), but utilizing their considerable torque (the force that turns the blade through resistance), these same machines will turn the right ingredients, including large quantities of ice and/or frozen fruit, into a perfect soft-serve ice cream reminiscent of those sold in restaurants and frozen yogurt shops everywhere.
Perfectly smooth (or crunchy, if desired) butters can be made of peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Flours with textures ranging from coarse to fine powder can made from just about any whole grain, nut, or legume. Even bread or pizza dough can be both mixed and kneaded in these blenders. And if customer feedback is any indication, the ability to crush ice in some form is one of, if not the, primary reasons for which most people use their blenders. Ironically, this also appears to be the primary task no ordinary blender performs very well. Having demonstrated the ability of a high-powered blender to crush ice literally thousands of times, let me assure you, the ability to do so will not be a concern for owners of these machines.
No discussion of the uses for high-powered blenders is complete, though, without mentioning smoothies. The term itself is certainly a catch-all, for there is no one prevailing definition of what, exactly, makes a beverage a smoothie. But that is not at all the point here. Instead, what is important is that no matter your definition or recipe, regardless of the nutritional contents or density or your ingredients, whether you like them silky smooth or as thick as milkshakes, the absolute best smoothie results are produced from high-performance blenders. There is a reason businesses such as Starbucks, Panera Bread, Planet Smoothie, Smoothie King, Tropical Smoothie, Jamba Juice, Godiva, Cinnabon, Carvel, Baskin Robbins, etc., etc. all use essentially the same machines with the same motors that are being discussed and sold on this site. It is now entirely possible (and quite easy) to duplicate the exact result at home that you get when you purchase an $8 smoothie at one of these establishments.
Heavy duty blenders such as the one I demonstrate are not new inventions. Several of the most well-known makers – Blendtec and Waring, for example – have been producing them for over 30 years. Vitamix has been making them for close to 80! Originally, they were marketed as super-strong machines that were both more versatile than the average blender and durable enough for commercial kitchen use. Although a small fraction of their end-users in the raw food community has been for decades aware of the health benefits they provide, it has only been in the last few years that this feature – what I consider to be the best thing about these machines – has reached the mainstream. Again, it is not my goal to bog us down with nutritional science. Instead, consider the following an attempt at painting a brief, broad-brushed picture of why these powerful machines are so popular in the health and wellness community.
While there is little doubt consuming fresh fruits and vegetables is the absolute best way to provide the body with the majority of the nutrition it needs, more than one study suggests that merely chewing and swallowing these foods results in a potential nutritional loss of what is available from them of up to 90%. Chewing our food is and always will be important. It’s Stage 1 of our bodies’ natural digestion process. Chewing not only begins the breaking down of what we eat, but also signals the stomach to begin preparing gastric juices for its role in digestion. Still, the vast majority of nutritive and disease-fighting properties can easily go unutilized during digestion without a more thorough breakdown of our foods’ cell structure, in which these properties reside. Cell walls in our plant-based foods are comprised largely of a carbohydrate called cellulose. It just so happens the human body cannot break down cellulose on its own (it lacks the necessary enzymes to do so), which is why the chewing process in digestion has always been so vital. Yet, once reaching the stomach, a great majority of the energy our bodies do derive from our chewed and swallowed food is actually spent digesting it.
This is where high-powered blending can really pay off. In theory, via blending cell structure breakdown is done for us prior to consumption which translates into more energy being utilized in the forms of detoxification, disease fighting/prevention, and cell repair. A strong blender’s ability to rupture cell structure potentially yields a substantially greater increase in the percentage of phytonutrients into the bloodstream that would otherwise go unutilized. Phytonutrients, of which there are literally hundreds if not thousands found in our fruits and vegetables, reside inside the cells of their more fibrous components – skin, seeds, and pulp. The more powerful the blender, the greater its ability to aid the body in releasing properties otherwise locked inside these particular cell walls should be. A blender delivering over 1 actual horsepower of mechanical energy should be strong enough to rupture an exponentially greater number of cells in our whole foods than a traditional household blender, releasing a greater percentage of phytonutrients into the bloodstream which have been determined to do everything from, but not limited to, fighting diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis, just to name a few.
Did I Mention it Cooks?
At my roadshows I’ll rarely sell a Blendtec simply because it’ll make ice cream in seconds. At the same time, very few people who actually watch the machine in action aren’t at least a little bit impressed that it can. Most of my customers are savvy, educated folks who appreciate its versatility as well as its potential for the betterment of their health. For both reasons, these really are fantastic machines. A customer of mine summed it up perfectly in one sentence, though, at a show I recently completed in Buford, Georgia. He was fascinated by the fact that the blender could actually cook a hot and healthy soup in minutes, but for over an hour in the store he battled with himself over the price after watching my demonstration. Finally, on his way to the registers he came back by my booth, picked up a blender, and put it in his shopping cart. He reiterated again how he loved making soup, and how that alone just might justify what he was about to spend. Then he said, “But I guess if I don’t give you this $400, I’ll just end up giving it to my doctor down the road, anyway.” We shared a laugh over what he said, but who knows how much truth his words really hold? Before I told him I was going to steal his line, I told him not to worry – he was making a phenomenal investment. By now I’ve no doubt he agrees.
Effects of Vitamix Versus Control Blender, University of Toronto