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Walking through the aisles of the grocery store, there are endless options. While it is great to see this increasing health consciousness with more organic and local produce, it can be confusing when deciding what kind is best to buy. The goal is to maximize the nutrients from these fruits and vegetables, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, raw, or cooked.  Here are some questions that my clients ask that I hope you find useful next time you find yourself in the produce aisle unsure of what to pick and how to prepare it.

 

What is the raw food diet? Should I be eating my vegetables raw?

Although the raw food diet does not cook foods above 118 degrees to preserve natural enzymes, research is unclear whether the active enzymes in raw food are beneficial to humans. In many cases, the decision of whether to cook or consume raw depends on the type of food. For example, Vitamin C is very unstable and easily destroyed in heat and water so cooking might not be ideal. However, cooking is useful for destroying pathogens like Salmonella and E. Coli as well as in facilitating digestion and palatability.

 

What affects Vitamin status in foods?

Vitamin status is affected by exposure to heat, oxygen light, and extremes in pH. Folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin and Vitamin B6, which are water-soluble vitamins, are particularly susceptible.

 

What determines the nutrient content in foods?

The nutrient content of foods is determined by: the soil it is grown in, degree of maturity at harvest, duration transported, the storage process, and cooking methods. For animal foods, the nutrient content is affected by what the animal consumed.

 

How ripe should I buy produce?

You want produce that ripened on the plant so that maximum nutrition is obtained from the soil and plant. In many instances local produce is the best option because it is more likely it was harvested ripe due to shorter traveling times.

 

Do I keep fresh produce on the counter or in the refrigerator?

To minimize nutrient loss, ripe produce should be immediately put in the refrigerator and kept chilled until used. Fruits and vegetables with cut skins should be covered so that the vitamins are not exposed to air.

 

Do frozen vegetables have any nutritional value?

Frozen fruits and vegetables are actually equal, and in some cases superior, to fresh versions because they are picked at peak times and quickly frozen to preserve the nutrients.

 

Is organic always better?

Not necessarily! The nutrient value of produce is affected by many elements, including condition of the soil, seed variety, and how ripe the produce was when picked. I follow the “dirty dozen” rule when buying organic. These are the twelve foods highest in pesticide residues: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and potatoes.

 

Are canned foods bad for me?

Research shows that some canned foods provide higher levels of nutrients than the fresh versions. The process of canning occurs at peak freshness and preserves nutrients. Be careful though! Many canned products are very high sugar/ sodium. Always look for versions with real fruit juice or no added sodium.

 

Can I get my fruits and vegetables from juice?

Juicing can be a great way to increase fruit and vegetable intake and will provide many of the source’s vitamins and minerals. However, the process of straining fruits and vegetables extracts the liquids but discards the pulp and fiber.

 

Should I wash my produce when I unpack my groceries or before I eat it?

For optimal nutrients, you want to wash your fruits and vegetables right before cutting them. While I am a big advocate of meal prep, cutting raw fruits and vegetables prior to eating diminishes the nutrient content. If you can, pack them whole and cut right before eating.

 

Is the microwave bad?

It is a common misbelief that the microwave kills all of the good nutrients in vegetables. This is false! Water-soluble nutrients are released into cooking liquids so steaming or microwaving are the ideal ways to cook many vegetables. Just be careful not to overcook and loosing these vitamins. Every fall, they visit their alumni’s 70-plus high https://justbuyessay.com schools

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Sharon Richter, RD
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Phone: 212.977.7779

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