We all know by now that we should eat fruits and veggies. And most of us know we should try to include a variety of them in our diet. But did you know there are ways to take your produce consumption to the next level?
After listening to an eye-opening interview with Chris Kresser, I was excited to share these tips with you. Just when you thought kale was the answer to everything…
Here are 3 things you may not know about produce:
1. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often a better choice than “fresh.”
Most produce that is sold at the large supermarket chains is grown hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. The problem with that is that as soon as you take a plant out of the ground, it starts losing its nutrition.
Broccoli is an especially notable example of this. It starts losing some of its cancer-fighting compounds within 24 hours after you harvest it. Spinach – which is one of the best sources of folate (essential for production and repair of DNA) – loses almost 50% of its folate eight days after it’s picked.
In many cases, foods are flash frozen right after they’re harvested, so there’s not as much time for the nutrients to degrade.
2. A tomato is not a tomato.
Over many years, we’ve domesticated a lot of crops. This is often due to selective breeding in an attempt to make certain fruits and vegetables sweeter, to be more palatable. We have changed them in ways that made them easier to grow and more resistant to pests, or larger and more appealing visually. A lot of these changes, unfortunately, have had an adverse impact on their nutrient content.
For example, the ancestor of the sweet corn that we eat today was 30% protein and 2% sugar, but today’s corn is 4% protein and 10% to 40% sugar. That’s an almost unrecognizably different plant. There’s even a species of wild tomato that has 15 times more of the antioxidant, lycopene, than supermarket versions of tomatoes.
When searching for varieties of foods that are more nutrient dense, try to choose more wild plants that are less domesticated. Consider eating more spices and herbs, which tend to be still kind of in their more wild state, and are among the most nutrient dense foods available.
3. Produce can be stored and prepared in specific ways to maximize nutrient content.
Most forms of berries actually become richer in antioxidants the longer you cook them. So cooking berries and then canning them, or even buying canned blueberries, are more nutritious than fresh blueberries (assuming they’re not canned with sugar or syrup). The same is true for tomatoes. The longer you cook tomatoes, the more benefits they provide.
If you are using garlic in a dish, chopping the garlic and then letting it rest for 10 minutes before you put it into the dish dramatically increases the allicin (a potent antimicrobial) content.
If you cook white potatoes, and then you let them chill for 24 hours, you change the plant considerably. You increase the resistant starch content and also lower the glycemic index of the potato.
Pretty nifty, huh? Want to hear more about it? You can check out the full interview here: