How Fresh is Fresh?
So, you have decided to make a change this season and start investing in your health. You are going to make a BIG effort to buy your fruits and veggies fresh and eat them raw as you have read that this can be best for your health. But what does fresh mean and how fresh are the fruits and vegetables in the grocery store?
Freshness has become an important concept in evaluating the quality and desirability of food. What factors influence the freshness of our food?
Once a fruit or vegetable has been picked it starts to decrease in freshness. While some fruits and vegetables only reach ripeness after harvest, most foods will start to lose flavor and nutritional value moments after picking. This is the point where our food begins to spoil. Picking the fruit or veggie begins the release of destructive enzymes that begin the natural breakdown processes such as oxidation (think a cut apple turning brown) and nutrients start to degrade. There are also microbes that grow as the defense mechanisms in the plant cells that start to stall.
Is there a time limit for freshness? Some plant foods can remain fresh for long periods, if they are stored correctly. Potatoes, for example, can stay fresh for three months if they are stored in a cool dark place. Pears and apples can be stored for up to a year in special atmospherically controlled facilities. The foods we eat can take quite the journey! Produce grown in the southern hemisphere will pass through many stages on its journey to our grocery stores and markets. Believe it or not, some of the “fresh” produce we buy is harvested, then loaded onto airplanes (for the more perishable foods such as berries) which can take 1-3 days, or it’s loaded into refrigerated ships that control temperatures and keep the produce as fresh for 1-4 weeks at a time! When the produce reaches its destination, it may then need to travel by truck to a distribution center before finally being delivered to a retailer and eventually making it into your cart at the grocery store!
During the time our food is travelling to our plate nutrients are being lost. Nutrients are lost at an accelerating rate as a foods freshness decline. They are particularly affected by oxidation, heat, sunlight, dehydration and enzymes. Vitamin C is especially vulnerable to degradation over time, although this varies between foods. Chilling and freezing are helpful in delaying or preventing nutrient loss.
So where should we get our food to get the freshest, most nutrient dense foods? In a perfect world we would all be able to grow our own food in our backyards and in our houses and pick the produce straight off the tree, plant or vine. This is, however, not a realistic expectation so during the summer and harvest times your best bet is to visit your local farmers markets and buy directly from the local farmers that have recently harvested their crops. In many parts of the world, like here in Calgary Canada where I live, there are plenty of farmers markets and fresh produce but only for a very short time as our growing season here in the north is very short. To prepare for the “off season” I recommend buying extras and freezing fresh produce. I do this with a lot of berries, fruits and greens that I like to use for my morning shakes all winter. I also preserve some foods by fermentation by making fermented pickles and sauerkraut. But honestly, we live in a miraculous world of science and transport. To have apples and watermelons in the dead of winter, to enjoy berries and greens to keep us healthy all year is truly a blessing we rarely think about. Next time you are enjoying a fresh pineapple in the winter months think about the journey that fruit took to get to your plate. It really is AMAZING!
Want to get even healthier? If you’re looking to introduce fresh foods and change the way you eat – in a way that’ll help you improve your health, appearance, and performance, let’s talk! Schedule an initial complimentary consultation with me today—or pass this offer on to someone you care about! Visit www.noshoesnutrition.com and sign up for a FREE consultation. I work with people from all over the world individually or in groups so don’t let anything hold you back!