You’re eating right and changing your diet—great work! But before you microwave those peas or stir-fry that veggie medley, be sure you know the best way to help your healthy produce retain its nutrient value. From Dr. Mike Moreno, author of The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor’s Plan Designed for Rapid Results.
1. Look for fresh produce that is crisp and not wilted. Fresh = nutritious.
2. When buying fresh fruits, look for bruises on the fruit. Bruising initiates a chemical reaction that saps the nutrient content.
3. When purchasing salad-in-a-bag, look for a colorful medley of greens in the package. The more color, the more antioxidants and phytochemicals in the vegetables.
4. Always select the brightest, most colorful fruits and vegetables on the shelves. The brighter the color, the more vitamins and nutrients in the produce.
5. Go for darker shades of green when buying lettuce. Dark-leafed lettuce, like Romaine, is richer in certain B vitamins than are lighter varieties of lettuce such as iceberg.
6. Buy certain vegetables such as onions and sweet peppers in all their various colors for a greater array of nutrients.
7. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables in season when their flavor and nutrition are at peak levels.
8. Buy locally grown fruit and vegetables when you can. They tend to be more nutrient-rich because they come picked right from the field. (A lot of nutrient loss occurs when produce is in transit for delivery to supermarkets.)
9. Berries are highly perishable. At the grocery store, look at the bottom of the container. Staining is a sign that the fruit has been bruised or is overripe. Nutrient loss has already set in, and the fruit will spoil rapidly.
10. Look for the brightest strawberries possible. A bright color signals exceptional nutrient quality. If berries show too much whiteness at their base, they’re less nutritious.
11. Sniff berries to test for freshness. A pleasant aroma indicates good flavor, ripeness and nutritional goodness.
12. Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables on the food lists. The greater the variety of foods you eat, the healthier your nutrition.
13. Eat fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible. Generally, raw produce is healthier. Exception to the raw rule: Cooked carrots and tomatoes yield more antioxidants.
14. Cook vegetables the shortest time possible to preserve nutrients.
15. Steaming vegetables is a great way to keep nutrients from escaping.
16. Avoid thawing frozen fruits and vegetables prior to cooking. As foods thaw, microorganisms possibly present in food may begin to multiply, spoiling the food.
17. In most cases, avoid peeling. Nutrients and fiber are lost when produce is peeled.