Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Getting The Most From Your Fruits and Veggies

Nothing beats fresh fruits and vegetables. How many times have you heard me say that?   After all, they come packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Or do they? As it turns out, that might depend on how you treat them. What happens to our produce pals between the time they’re picked and swallowed can have a real effect on what you get out of them. 

Does microwaving really zap away the vitamins and minerals? Is it better to buy fresh instead of frozen? And is your body able to absorb all the good-for-you nutrition anyway?
It's true that fresh fruits and vegetables tend to taste better and have more nutritional value than frozen or canned. But that's not always the case. 

Fresh is best when it really is farm-fresh and ripe. However, the commercial produce you get from the grocery store has probably been picked early, before its nutritional peak, to avoid spoilage between the farm and the shelf. And the longer they sit on the shelf -- during transport, in the supermarket, and in your fridge -- the fewer nutrients they have left to pass on to you. 

On the other hand, fruits and vegetables intended for freezing are usually picked closer to the peak of ripeness and are flash-frozen immediately after harvest. The process of freezinig does tend to deplete some nutrients, but it locks in the rest for up to 12 months. So that means that often, frozen fruits and veggies may actually have more vitamins and minerals than what you buy fresh from the produce aisle and eat later the same day. 

To help retain the highest levels of vitamin C, don't thaw frozen veggies before cooking. Studies show that vegetables cooked directly from frozen retain more vitamin C than vegetables that are thawed first.  To get the most nutrient-rich fresh fruits and veggies, buy locally grown produce in season and eat within a few days of purchase.

Although some studies suggest the microwave is to blame for sucking nutrients out of your food, others point a finger at the water in which they are cooked.  For most fruits and vegetables, any type of cooking lowers the nutrient content. So for now, a good rule of thumb is: less is more. The only exception is red tomatoes.  Cooking them actually increases their levels of lycopene.  Lycopene is an antioxidant thought to help prevent heart disease, vision loss, and some types of cancer.
For the rest, eat fresh, raw and leave the skins on whenever possible.  Most fruits and vegetables carry most of their antioxidants in their skins.  Just wash well before eating and go organic whenever possible.  When you do cook, lightly steaming your vegetables instead of boiling, sautéing, or roasting will keep the greatest concentration of nutrients.  And if you prefer to blanch your veggies, dip them in boiling water for the least amount of time possible.
Last but not least, dip your veggies in a little cold pressed olive oil to help your body absorb the vitamins and minerals even better.
 

6 comments:

evolved said...

Tony,

Quick comment not regarding this topic, but wanted to share an idea/info with you. I'm not sure if you've heard, but the Nintendo Wii is coming out with a new program called Wii Fit. You can perform a search for Wii Fit anywhere to read specific details. Basically, it's a fitness program using a pressure board attached to the console that meausres weight among other things. It has such activities as yoga, running in place, push ups etc. Using this board for yoga posture balances for example, it tells you if you've put your other foot down, counts for you, and makes sure you are doing it correctly. (as best a piece of equipment can) For push ups it knows/tells you if you're on one hand, counts them out for you etc. and a lot of other activities. I'd love to see Beachbody incorporate something like this into their programs!! I know i've heard a few people tell me they are going to buy this once it's out in the US. (Japan only now) What are your thoughts on this?

evolved said...

Tony,

Quick comment not regarding this topic, but wanted to share an idea/info with you. I'm not sure if you've heard, but the Nintendo Wii is coming out with a new program called Wii Fit. You can perform a search for Wii Fit anywhere to read specific details. Basically, it's a fitness program using a pressure board attached to the console that meausres weight among other things. It has such activities as yoga, running in place, push ups etc. Using this board for yoga posture balances for example, it tells you if you've put your other foot down, counts for you, and makes sure you are doing it correctly. (as best a piece of equipment can) For push ups it knows/tells you if you're on one hand, counts them out for you etc. and a lot of other activities. I'd love to see Beachbody incorporate something like this into their programs!! I know i've heard a few people tell me they are going to buy this once it's out in the US. (Japan only now) What are your thoughts on this?

Char Power said...

Tony,

You just made my day. I buy lots of frozen fruits and veggies because they are easier for me to prepare. I will incorporate more of them into my daily diet now.

Question: Does the same rule apply to canned veggies?

Thanks for such useful information.

nick said...

Tony,

I'm always looking for innovative ways to enhance my dining experience, and wholesome fruits and vegetables are a big part of it. Thanks for this great info concerning proper diet--frozen veggies and fruits are definitely less mess and pack a bigger punch in the nutrient department. I eat 'em all the time, especially organic varieties. And now that it's getting warm here in the Northeast, gardens are sprouting everywhere...so you have the locally grown fresh variety, which is sometimes tastier, I must say. Blanching and steaming veggies is the way to go in my book. There are a ton of steamers out there on the market that get the job done. And then there's nothing like dipping freshly blanched broccoli rabe in virgin olive oil, oh yeah!

Salute,

Nick

Amit said...

TH,

Hey how u doing man? Thanks for some wonderful tips. Talking about veggies and fruits, how good in V8 (low sodium)? I drink it when i am too busy for some vegetarian indulgence. Have a good one bro,

peace out,

Amit

Cheryl said...

What about dehydrated vegetables and fruits? Do they keep their nutrients as well as frozen?