It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life. Even when we try to return to the wholesome goodness of whole – read, real – foods, something is lacking. Thanks to the various methods of modern farming and transport, even the whole foods we eat are lacking in vital nutrients.
While nobody would suggest switching from a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables to a diet of canned fruits and veggies – even with some modern farming methods depleting nutrients, fresh is best – it’s important to understand why your fresh produce might not be as fresh or as nutrient-dense as you think.
There are a variety of factors present in the field that can affect the nutrient quality of your fresh produce. Over the years consumers have demanded “prettier” fruits and vegetables, so fruits in particular are often picked when still green and ripen on their way to market. This makes them “prettier” but also leads to a reduction in overall nutrient value. For example, Cartenoid in fruits increase as fruits are allowed to ripen naturally, on the vine or tree.
There is a strong farmer reliance on chemical fertilizers and a relative loss of topsoil today. Though farmers replace much of the lost potassium and nitrogen, there is little attention paid to the loss of trace nutrients and minerals. These are the essential building blocks to good overall nutrition.
Once fruits and vegetables leave the field, they are often transported more than 1,000 miles to market. The older your produce, the fewer of those essential nutrients it has. It’s unknown exactly how much nutrient loss there is, but experts say produce slowly loses nutrients when stored in a cold, dark place for a period of time. Some fruits and vegetables are more prone to this nutrient loss and can lose as much as 50% of their phytonutrients in three to five days.
The combination of these factors along with the too-generous use of pesticides and unknown effect sitting on your grocer’s shelves has on your produce means there is an unknown detriment to your produce. Certainly there’s no argument that you should give up fresh produce altogether, but you also shouldn’t rely on fresh produce alone for your vitamin and nutrient needs.
Consider frozen vegetables and fruits as an alternative to fresh. While experts say fresh is almost always best, often frozen fruits and vegetables retain more of their nutrients since processing and quick freezing occurs literally almost in the field.
And supplements can’t hurt. As we learn more and more about the nutrient-depleting methods by which our produce moves from field to table, experts say a smattering of vitamin supplements can help restore much of what our fresh produce might be missing.