Now that we’re weeks away from the official start of summer, it’s time for gardening and shopping at local farmers’ markets. Fresh fruits and veggies are in season and ready to be picked, tossed, grilled, sautéed and served.
Fresh produce is ideal for you because it is rich in nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals), which are essential for keeping our bodies nourished, healthy and strong. According to dietitians at our suburban Phoenix hospital, the fresher the fruits and veggies you eat, the better.
On average, produce takes about five days to travel to supermarkets. From there, fruits and veggies typically spend one to three days on display before they are purchased. Then, they are stored in our refrigerators for up to a week before they are eaten. This means by the time you bite into that peach or broccoli floret, it may be stripped of some of the nutrients it had when it was first picked.
Dietitians Sarah Kiser, MS, RD and Rachel Winston, MS, RD say several other factors can decrease the amount of nutrients in produce, including the soil and weather a plant is grown in, as well as whether it’s grown organically or using chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, etc. How a fruit or veggie is harvested and handled, in addition to how it’s stored and cooked also affect its nutritional value.
Kiser and Winston offer these tips to maximize the nutritional value of the produce you eat:
- Eat fruits and veggies as close as you can to the time you purchased them.
- Shop at farmers’ markets to eliminate transit and storage time.
- Buy produce that’s in season. It contains more nutrients than out-of-season produce.
- Don’t boil your produce, as it causes nutrients to leach out into liquid. If you do boil produce, use the water as broth for soup.
- Consume a combination of raw and cooked veggies.
- Store fruits and veggies at a temperature between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Kiser, Winston and other dietitians at CTCA, watch our cooking videos.
Get tips for healthy grilling this summer too.
Looking for the perfect salad to bring to a party or picnic? Try the recipe below.
Tuscan Kale Salad
- 4-6 cups lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale), chopped with midribs removed, loosely packed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Hot red pepper flakes, to taste
- 2/3 cup grated Pecorino Toscano cheese or another flavorful grating cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a generous pinch (or more to taste) of hot red pepper flakes. Pour over kale in a serving bowl and toss well. Add the cranberries and 2/3 of the cheese and toss again. Let kale sit for at least 5 minutes. Top with remaining cheese.