Fruits and vegetables are naturally nutritious. It's how you store, clean, and prepare them that will determine how nutritious they are when you eat them.
Fresh, properly stored produce will be the most nutritious. To keep produce fresh longer, store it unwashed and uncut. With the exception of a few items, such as garlic, onions, potatoes, and winter squash, fresh produce should be stored in the refrigerator. Most produce items are best stored loose in crisper drawers, which have a slightly higher humidity. If your refrigerator doesn't have a crisper drawer, use moisture-resistant wrap or bags to hold your produce. Fruits and vegetables that have already been cut and/or washed should be covered tightly to prevent vitamin loss and stored on refrigerator shelves.
Wash your produce in clean water. This important step should be done for all fruits and vegetables, even for produce such as melons and oranges that have skin or rinds that you don't plan to eat.
That's because surface dirt or bacteria can contaminate your produce when you cut or peel it.
Plan to wash your produce just before you're ready to eat or cook it to reduce spoilage caused by excess moisture. The one exception is lettuce -- it remains crisp when you wash and refrigerate it for later use. It is not advisable to use detergent when washing fruits and vegetables. Produce is porous and can absorb the detergent, which leaves a soapy residue. Special produce rinses or sprays can help loosen surface dirt and waxes.
Clean thicker-skinned vegetables and fruits with a soft-bristled brush. Peel and discard outer leaves or rinds. If you plan to eat the nutrient-rich skin of hearty vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, scrub the skin well with a soft-bristled brush. For cleaning fragile berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, the best method is to spray them with the kitchen-sink sprayer. Use a colander so dirt and water can drain, and gently turn the fruit as you spray.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Eat them raw whenever possible to get maximum nutrition. For vegetables that require cooking, such as asparagus, green beans, or brussels sprouts, cook as quickly as possible -- just until tender crisp. This helps to minimize loss of nutrients and also helps vegetables retain their bright color and flavor. Cook vegetables (and fruits) in a covered pot with just a little water -- to help create steam that speeds cooking. Or try cooking in the microwave. This fast method of cooking helps to retain nutrients, flavor, and crispness.
Easy Ways to Get Your Helpings
The following are some tips to help you integrate fruits and vegetables throughout your daily routine.
- Start your day with fruit -- add fresh or dried fruit to cereal, yogurt, pancakes, or waffles, or just enjoy it by itself.
- Mix chopped vegetables into scrambled eggs, or fold them into an omelet.
- First, freeze fresh fruits, such as grapes, blueberries, and chunks of bananas, peaches, or mango. Then, enjoy them as a refreshing snack, or mix them with yogurt and juice in a blender to make a smoothie.
- Snack on a trail mix of crunchy, whole-grain cereal, dried fruits, and chopped, toasted almonds.
- Bring a prepackaged fruit cup, box of raisins, or piece of fruit with you to work or school for an energy-boosting snack.
- For a shortcut fruit salad, open two or more cans of chopped or sliced fruit and add some fresh or frozen fruits for a tasty and refreshing snack or meal accompaniment.
- Stuff a pita pocket with veggie chunks and sprouts, and drizzle on a low-fat ranch dressing.
- Toss pasta or rice with leftover vegetables, low-fat vinaigrette, and a sprinkling of shredded cheese or toasted pine nuts or almonds.
- Sneak in some extra helpings of produce by adding finely chopped vegetables, such as carrots, eggplant, broccoli, or cauliflower, to marinara sauce, soups, stews, and chili.
- Roast your vegetables for a deep, rich flavor. Drizzle them with a little olive oil, and roast in an oven set to 425 degrees Fahrenheit or on the grill until tender. Try carrots, asparagus, butternut squash, eggplant, broccoli -- or just about any vegetable that strikes your fancy!
Now that you know the right colorful combination of fruits and vegetables, you can make more informed decisions that can help you beat aging and strengthen your body against illnesses. ©Publications International, Ltd.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.