April 4, 2017

4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value

Second in a 3-part series on storing fresh local produce
– By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

(Part 1: You won’t believe how much nutritional value is lost)
(Part 3: Do this to save fresh local produce for a year!)

In the last post, we got to know the three biggest enemies that are killing the nutritional value of modern-day produce. But Seasonal Roots’ fearless family farmers are fighting to grow more nutritional produce by working with nature to enrich the soil on their land. They’re also growing old-fashioned heirloom varieties that haven’t been bred for nothing but shelf life.

Plus, there are things YOU control that will boost your food’s nutritional value, too. Here are 4 easy ways to max out the nutrients in the produce you eat. Bonus: in most cases, you’ll be maxing the flavor, too.

1. BUY LOCAL. As soon as produce is picked, the clock starts ticking as the produce starts losing nutrients. The sooner you get your hands on it after harvest, the more nutritional value it still has. Most grocery store produce comes from all over the world and is at least a week old. By then, green beans have lost 77% of their vitamin C. Seasonal Roots local produce doesn’t have to travel far, so it arrives at your door within a couple days of leaving the field.

2. EMBRACE THE DIRT. You should definitely wash your produce to make sure it’s safe to eat. But wait to wash until right before you eat it or cook it. Until then, leave it in its original state and handle it as gently and as little as possible. Excess moisture, bruising, pre-chopping and peeling (we’re looking at you, ready-to-eat bag o’ salad) all accelerate decay and nutrient loss. In the case of pre-processed produce, the problem is that vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants, so when produce gets cut or damaged, oxygen gets inside and the antioxidants are not happy to meet it. That’s another advantage of buying local — after the farmer harvests your produce, it gets handled once by Seasonal Roots veggie fairies, who gently handpack your order. Grocery store produce, well, it has to endure a lot of long, hard travel and repeated rough handling by lots of middlemen along the way.

3. REFRIGERATE RIGHT AWAY. For most fruits and veggies, a cold, dark place slows down the loss of nutrients, because it inhibits destructive enzymes and the loss of vitamin C. B vitamins are particularly sensitive to heat and light. There are exceptions — namely potatoes, onions, and tomatoes (this is why tomatoes lose their flavor in the fridge). Here’s a helpful infographic that shows each fruit and veggie’s happy place.

4. EAT FAST. The longer your produce sits in your fridge or pantry, the more nutrients slowly disappear. But what if you can’t eat it all right away? No worries. There’s still a way you can hang onto most of that nutritional value. In the next post, I’ll explain how.

About Seasonal Roots

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our neighborhood market managers – who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grass fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.