Fresh Produce Knows Best: Myth Debunked!

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True or false: The best produce is fresh produce.

False…..ish.

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If you are able to find fresh produce that is local, in season, and has been picked at its ripest point, then this statement is true. However, if you’re purchasing your produce from a store where fruits and vegetables have been shipped from different parts of the country and all over the world, then frozen and even canned products can be a more nutrient smart decision to make.

Why is this?

When produce has to be shipped, it typically is picked before it is at its ripest state which means it hasn’t had the opportunity to meet its full capacity of vitamins and nutrients. These products can also be placed in extreme heat conditions while traveling, causing a loss in vitamin A and C. Often times this “fresh” produce will go days or even weeks before being placed on the shelf to be purchased, giving it time to lose even more of its nutrient value.

The Faceoff 

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Benefits:

  • Highest nutritional content when consumed immediately at its peak of ripeness
  • Typically no added sugars or other ingredients

Disadvantages:

  • Is often picked before ripe, meaning it hasn’t had the opportunity to obtain the fullest amount of vitamins
  • Loses nutritional content the farther it has to travel and the longer it takes to get on the shelf. Sometimes fresh produce can be sitting out for as long as 2 weeks before it even makes it to the store, according to Suzanne Henson, RD
  • Can be expensive, especially when not in season
  • Short shelf life

Tips:

  • Shop for what is in season
  • Purchase fresh produce at local farmer’s markets
  • Have your own garden and freeze produce when it is at its peak

canned

Benefits:

  • Longer shelf life
  • More affordable

Disadvantages:

  • Can have added ingredients (sweeteners and salt)
  • Loses some of its nutritional value, such as vitamin A and C, due to the cooking and processing involved
  • May not be as flavorful due to the process of canning

Tips:

  • Look at the ingredients and make sure there are no added ingredients
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables to remove excess syrups and sodium
  • Use produce immediately after opening can to fully utilize the nutrients and maintain freshness

frozen

Benefits:

  • Typically not as expensive as fresh produce
  • Lasts longer in the freezer
  • Produce is picked when it’s most nutrient rich, then is flash-frozen to preserve freshness and nutritional content

Disadvantages:

  • Can have added sweeteners and salt
  • May not have the same taste or texture as fresh produce

Tips:

  • Read the label and look to purchase only produce that has itself listed as the ingredient
  • If you have a garden or buy local, freeze berries and other foods that are only good during certain times of the year to enjoy them year round

There you have it! Fresh produce isn’t necessarily the best, most nutrient-rich way to get your daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Shop around and be sure to read the labels when buying canned or frozen goods. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, try having your own garden to ensure you are consuming fruits and vegetables that are at their peak in freshness and nutritional value.

What other myths would you like to see debunked that are related to health and fitness?

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