Fresh from the earth

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You may be amazed to discover that your fresh production may not constantly be the healthiest option. Lisa Witepski  investigates

It’s grocery shopping time. Your impulse to offer your household with the most nutritious meals offered– hence stocking your trolley with fresh fruits and veg– is at war with your own requirement for convenience, which nudges you towards the icy production area.

Before you berate yourself for reaching into the freezer, consider that– contrary to popular wisdom– fresh production mightn’t constantly be the healthiest option. Says Andrea du Plessis of Vital Health Foods: “Fresh production normally provides greater nutrient concentration– provided it actually is fresh.”

That’s a larger “however” than you could picture, according to Du Plessis, that juicy, red apple you are considering might be over a year old. “Fresh is a relative term,” she clarifies. “Exactly what we view to be fresh produce in our local grocery store could vary from newly picked and naturally grown to produce that appears fresh, however was selected virtually a year back and expanded in soil that’s less than nutritious.”

Back to the apples: in South Africa, these fruits are selected certain times of the year, normally between February and March– so if you are purchasing your apples in January, it’s possible that they might be between 6 months, to virtually a years of age. Far from a vitamin powerhouse, this fruit’ll have been chosen prior to it was ripe, suggesting its peak nutritional content hasn’t been developed. Moreover, it would’ve been stored for a long period of time and ripened with hormonal control, thus exhausting its nutrient material further.

Suddenly, your pack of frozen carrots doesn’t seem quite so iniquitous, does it? Definitely, freezing meals involves processing, and any procedure will compromise nutritional quality.

“Nonetheless, study has actually revealed that the freezing process doesn’t ruin nutrients and, in fact, properly protects the nutritional content of meals,” Du Plessis states.

All of meanings that, unless your food goes straight from harvest to your cooking area table (in which case you’ll without a doubt delight in optimum taste, structure and look, along with nutritional material), icy produce is most likely to be more nutrient-dense than fresh, states Johannesburg diet professional Wendy Lord.

That stated, Dr Rowena Thomson, inhouse technical consultant at Solgar South Africa, points out that icy production has its disadvantages, too. “Vitamin C, folic acid and calcium are commonly exhausted in the freezing procedure. Contributed to this, frozen veg is generally cooked before eating, and heat makes the nutritional material deteriorate further still.”

Heat is, indeed, Kryptonite for vitamins, so whichever route you go– fresh or frozen– your food preparation method will have a major influence on the dietary content of your meal. Lord suggests that all veggies need to be prepared for as short a time as possible, keeping in mind that the longer they’re exposed to heat, the more nutrients will be lost.

Steaming veg is more effective to boiling, which she described as “the most damaging food preparation approach” since nutrients leach into the water, which is typically tossed down the drain. Even roasting can have a negative influence on nutrients, says Du Plessis. “First prize would be to consume your fruit and veg raw,” she states.

Momin Hukamdad, industrial director at McCain, states that if you must boil veggies, it’s important to plunge them into rapidly boiling water and keep cooking time to a minimum. To lock in the goodness of frozen veggies, Hukamdad adds, they need to not be thawed before food preparation, and ought to be functioned as right after preparation as possible.

Of course, the dietary value of your final meal depends to a huge extent on the quality of the ingredients it’s made from. When choosing from the fresh meals aisle, Lord states that you must watch out for fruit and vegetables that are plump and firm, and have a fresh odor. The produce should also be crisp and devoid of bruising and various other damage. Organically expanded foods which have actually been newly chosen (rather than unnaturally ripened) are most effectively, Du Plessis adds.

Shopping for icy produce is a little harder, since you can’t see precisely what you are getting. Nonetheless, there are particular warning signs suggesting that the contents are of an inferior quality. For example, food should move freely inside its packaging, if it does not, it’s since previous thawing at some point has actually caused it to stick. The production ought to also be frozen solid, so if the components of the bag feel a little soft to the touch, put it back in the freezer. Finally, although freezing unavoidably changes the texture of icy fruit and veg (due to the fact that water inside the produce broadens throughout the freezing procedure, breaking cells as it does), they need to continue to be crunchy.

Keep a lookout for sugarcoated, fats, preservatives and additives, as well as sauces and crumbs– and remember that if you do have an option in between a meals that’s frozen and one that’s certainly been selected off the branch just recently, choose the fresh option.

Storage, too, will have an influence on the dietary quality of your fruit and veg. Du Plessis states that it’s most effectively to shop produce “as nature intended”, as exposure to oxygen and light destroys nutrients such as vitamin C and B Complex vitamins– so, no matter how hassle-free it’s to buy that pack of cubed butternut, it’s much better to put in the time to chop it yourself.

Lord, at the same time, mentions that it’s best to keep storage space time to a minimum, so consume your fruit and veg as near to the day of purchase as possible. If that’s not possible, store them appropriately– learn if the meals will keep finest in the fridge, or in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area.

Remember that not all foods are produced equal. If you are seeking fruit and veg that packs a punch, select those that are bright in color– the more extreme the color, the better they’re for you. Berries, for instance, are crammed with antioxidants that fight free of cost radicals, sustaining memory and avoiding early skin aging. Dark-green, leafy veggies hold massive amounts of magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, B and C vitamins, while red peppers contain four times the vitamin C content of oranges.

Thomson suggests choosing low-GI fruit– such as strawberries– over their high-GI counterparts (grapes, for example), while research is showing that meals such as broccoli, cocoa, acai berries and beetroot have benefits that, until now, haven’t been explored. “See to it you integrate meals of lots of different colors, so that you’re absorbing a range of nutrients. Your plate must appear like a rainbow.”

But be alerted: even if you’re managing to do this, and are consuming five servings of vegetables and fruit per day, it might still be essential to supplement your diet. “Numerous of the fruits and vegetables offered in grocery stores have a minimized nutritional material due to the fact that they’re expanded in poor-quality soil and undergo prolonged storage space and processing, and even since they’re planted beyond their natural seasons, producing suboptimum dietary value. Added to this, our stressed way of livings and exposure to cigarettes, alcohol, disease and chronic medicines indicate that we occasionally have increased dietary requirements,” Du Plessis notes.

Then again, it’s similarly unsafe to swing to the opposite of the pendulum, states Lord: supplements ought to never fill in fruit and vegetables, due to the fact that vegetables and fruit consist of a number of co-factors, vital to health, that aren’t offered in manufactured vitamins. Her insight is to pursue balance and make sure that your food is as fresh as possible.

If you do want to use supplements, read the label before you buy, says Thomson. “Make certain that you’re buying an item based upon sound components and not pretty packaging and incorrect pledges. If you aren’t sure exactly what to take, ask your regional wellness store for assistance– they’ll have the ability to recommend the choices best suited to your individual dietary demands. And bear in mind that, in some cases, paying a little more is worth it.”

Ultimately, what matters most is that you are, certainly, including a healthy quantity of fruit and veg in your diet– and not whether that production is fresh or icy.