• Is “Fresh” the “Best”?

    August 23, 2017
  • Is “Fresh” the “Best”?

    Sometimes you will hear that “fresh is best” referring to fruits and vegetables. When I tell people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and I say that a lot, I encourage a variety of colors regardless of fresh, frozen or canned.

    FRESH

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    The original “fast food,” fresh fruits and vegetables are one of our most convenient foods today. Most of the time, they come in their own edible wrapper (with some exceptions) and need virtually no preparation. Wash-and-eat or peel-and-eat. How convenient are apples, tomatoes, grapes, snap peas, peaches, kumquats, berries, cherries and baby carrots? Others need a bit more preparation.

    Fresh fruits and vegetables taste best when they are perfectly ripe and at room temperature. However, unless you have picked them yourself, or know the person who picked them, there are two drawbacks to fresh. 1) In many cases, fresh produce is picked before it is completely ripe and the nutrients start to break down once the produce

    is picked. 2) There isn’t a way to know for sure how long the produce has been at the market/store – even if it is organic.

    This does not mean that fresh doesn’t have any nutrients; fresh fruits and vegetables are great and everyone should eat them daily.

    FROZEN

    Frozen fruit and vegetables are most often picked at their peak of ripeness, blanched (placed in boiling water briefly, then an ice bath to prevent further cooking) to kill bacteria, and flash frozen. Frozen produce is what I call “suspended in time” meaning that the nutrients aren’t doing anything at this point; they are just hanging out in their cryogenic storage not breaking down waiting for you to eat them. Don’t wait too long though – since freezer burn isn’t so tasty.

    I frequently recommend frozen fruits and vegetables – without added syrup and sauces – since they are pretty good for you and can hang in the freezer for whenever you need them. Steam them, add them to soups and stews, run water over them and add them to salads. I love keeping several varieties in my freezer so that I can make sure I have veggies with our meals or fruit for my smoothies.

    CANNED

    Canned fruits and vegetables are the most processed, but this isn’t always a bad thing. Like frozen produce, canned foods are blanched before canning (this is familiar to you if you, your mother or grandmother ever canned). In many cases, there are added syrups or juice (with the fruit) or sodium (with vegetables).

    If you choose to use canned produce, I recommend that you:

    1. Choose low-sodium vegetables or fruit in its own juice (or light syrup).
    2. Drain the food – unless otherwise specified for a recipe you are using.
    3. Rinse the food to get rid of the excess sodium or sugar. As an example, draining canned beans can reduce the sodium by over 30% while draining and rinsing can reduce the sodium by over 40%.

    No matter which type you choose, fresh, frozen, canned, or a variety of these, just try to get at least five and closer to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

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