Because our soils have become so depleted of minerals and nutrients, and because modern agriculture breeds and processes our fruits and vegetables to “look good”, our current plant foods have only a fraction of the nutrients and flavor that they should. Now if this weren’t bad enough, we, the consumers, are buying these foods out of season. This means most of our fruits must be shipped from other countries, which requires them to be picked well before they are ripe in order to survive the trauma of mass production and shipping. Vegetables, as well, may not make it to the supermarket for many days or even weeks after harvest, which greatly reduces their nutritional value. Broccoli, especially, loses its nutrients very rapidly after harvest.
So how can we get the most out of our fruits and vegetables? Below are a few recommendations and tips that you may find interesting and helpful.
- Begin shopping in local farmers markets (as much as possible). If it’s not organically grown, wash it thoroughly with a vegetable wash to remove pesticides, etc. However, there are a few foods that I would only buy if organic due to their high degree of chemical contamination if not organic. These include apples, berries, grapes, cherries, peaches, celery, spinach and bell peppers.
- In general, the most intensely colored fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious, but there are a few surprising exceptions. White-fleshed peaches are richer in phytonutrients than yellow-fleshed peaches. Preserved artichoke hearts are loaded with antioxidants. I prefer the ones in glass jars as opposed to the canned ones because of the chemicals that can leach from the lining of conventional cans. Cauliflower, which is usually white, is very high in cancer-fighting compounds. And last but not least, garlic, onions and shallots contain a nutrient which helps fight cancer and decrease blood clots. To get the most nutrients from garlic, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes after chopping before heating it.
- Most fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious when eaten fresh. I have heard it said that canned or frozen veggies are the best for us because they are picked at the peak of readiness. But the heat involved, in the canning or the blanching of frozen foods, can destroy nutrients and enzymes in many of them. There is also the problem of additional chemicals in canned foods. But yet again, there are some exceptions. Frozen blueberries are almost as nutritious as fresh ones. I would recommend buying “flash-frozen” organic wild blueberries. They are really delicious in smoothies, and kale and spinach can be added and almost not noticed. Also, berries, tomatoes and carrots actually boost some of their available nutrient values by being heated. Cooked tomatoes have almost twice the available lycopene as raw ones.
- The last thing I’d like to point out is that size does matter. Actually, the smaller, the more nutritious. This applies to tomatoes, onions, potatoes, apples but not to naval oranges. Huh, go figure! Anyway, for more in depth information about this subject, read Eating on the Wild Side, by Jo Robinson. This book was my resource for most of this Health Tip.