Keeping Fruits and Vegetables Fresh is Good For You
Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can impact our health and wellness in many ways including:
- Helping us to better manage our weight
- Preventing acute and chronic illness
- Helping our bodies heal themselves from the inside out
Most health experts agree that you need to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day for optimum health. A serving of fruit is 1/2 cup (the size of a tennis ball), one small to medium piece of fruit, or 1/2 cup of fruit juice. A serving of raw vegetables is one cup (the size of a baseball) or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables.
Refrigerating food slows down the metabolic process that leads to ripening and then spoiling. Most fruits and vegetables should be stored at 30 to 40F although some fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes, are best stored at 40 to 50F. Still, other fruits and vegetables are best stored at room temperature such as tomatoes, bananas, and hard or unripened apples.
Some fruits are sold ripe and ready to eat. Plums and grapes are good examples. They should be refrigerated immediately. Other fruits may not be ripe when you bring them home. Store these at room temperature until they’re ripe and then keep them in the refrigerator. Storing fruits in a brown paper sack allows them to ripen through the release of ethylene gas.
Another method for keeping fruits and vegetables fresh is air-tight storage. The presence of oxygen encourages fruits and vegetables to spoil through a process called oxidation. Storing fruits and vegetables in an air-tight container or bag can slow down this process. Investing in a vacuum food storage system will go a long way to preserve the freshness of fruits and vegetables as well as other types of foods.
If you don’t have a vacuum food storage system then you can do it yourself at home using a plastic bag and a straw. Simply place the food in the plastic bag and squeeze out as much air as you can. Then close the bag but leave a small opening at the end for the straw. Next, suck out the remaining air through the straw and quickly seal the opened portion of the bag.
In addition to air and temperature, freshness is affected by moisture. Some fruits and vegetables need to be covered to prevent the loss of moisture that causes wilting. Leafy vegetables prefer humidity but others, like onions, prefer an arid environment. Salad spinners remove excess moisture and are a great kitchen tool to keep prepared salads from going bad before you can finish them.
Safe Handling of Raw Produce and Fresh Sqeezed Fruits and Vegetables, November 2005 publication of the USDA
Safe Food Storage Times and Temperatures, January 2005 publication of the Arizona Department of Health Services