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My local farmer's market is just
starting up. I want to take advantage of the great produce, but I'm
curious: how can I best preserve the nutrients in fresh fruits and
The three natural destroyers of vitamins
in fruits and vegetables are: heat, light and oxygen. Pretty hard to
avoid! However, cooking and storing methods can help retain nutrients.
- Limit storage time. Fresh is
best when it comes to taste and nutrition.
- Store fruits and vegetables in the
refrigerator to slow spoilage. However, tomatoes are an
exception. Their flavor is destroyed in the refrigerator. Hold them
at room temperature. If you want to store produce for a longer time,
consider freezing them.
- Cook minimally. Steam
vegetables briefly until just crisp-tender. For example, asparagus
and broccoli should retain their glorious bright green color.
Water-soluble nutrients are destroyed with prolonged cooking time.
If you do cook vegetables in water--those nutrients will leach into
the cooking liquid, so try to use those cooking liquids in soups and
- Avoid slicing vegetables too far in
advance. When we slice into a vegetable or fruit we expose the
cut surfaces to heat, light and oxygen--the nutrient destroyers.
Better to wait to slice into foods until we are ready to cook and
Congratulations on shopping at your local
farmer's market, by the way. You've discovered a great source for
delicious and nutritious foods, plus it's nice to get to know the
farmers who grow your food.
Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., Former
Nutritional Sciences Specialist, University of Missouri-Columbia