10 Nutrition Tips to Boost Health and Flavor in Fresh Food

How you handle, cook and store fresh food — and the types and varieties you choose — all affect its flavor and nutritional value. Learn some easy nutrition tips to get the most from your fresh fruits and vegetables.

| August/September 2013

Fresh produce

Of course fruits and vegetables are nutritious. But did you know there are a few simple steps you can take to boost the flavor and nutrition of your fresh produce? The best part is very little time and no extra money are required to get the most from your meals.


I’ve spent the past 10 years combing through scientific studies for little-known, but important nutritional information about fruits and vegetables. I’ve discovered a great deal of valuable research that has yet to filter down to consumers.

Some of the findings are surprising — and incredibly easy to put to use. Who would have thought you could double the amount of antioxidants in lettuce simply by tearing it into bite-sized pieces a day or so before you eat it? Or that you’ll get even more of the bionutrient lycopene from a watermelon if you leave the melon on the kitchen counter rather than storing it in your refrigerator?

You may need to learn a few new tricks and change some habits, but you’ll be well-rewarded for your effort in the form of boosted flavor and better health. Plus, you don’t have to spend any extra time or money. Here are 10 nutrition tips to take full advantage of all the health benefits fresh produce has to offer. We’ve created a Top Nutrition Tips sheet that you can print or download for easy reference. Pin it to your fridge!

1. Eat Heavy Breathers With a High Rate of Respiration First

Most people assume that fresh fruits and vegetables “die” after they’ve been harvested. Not so. They continue to respire, or “breathe,” even when stored in the depths of your refrigerator. (They’re alive!) When they respire, they absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. To fuel this activity, they begin to use up their stores of natural sugars and antioxidants, so by the time you eat them, they will have lost some of their natural sweetness, become more acidic and contain fewer antioxidants.

Some fruits and vegetables respire more quickly than others — I call these “heavy breathers.” These are the foods you should aim to eat as soon as possible after you harvest them or bring them home from the market. Foods that fall into this category include artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cherries, corn, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, parsley, raspberries, scallions, snap beans, spinach and strawberries.

2. Fresh and Picked Ripe

Soft vegetables and fruits, such as berries, will provide incomparable flavor and nutrition if grown at home or bought from a local farmer. These foods are easily damaged during mechanical harvest, shipping and storage, so the commercial food industry has found a work-around: harvesting them before they’re ripe. Tomatoes, strawberries, nectarines and peaches are picked while still green so they can arrive in stores unblemished. The problem is that these fruits never develop the full flavor of those that ripen in the field. What you can’t see or taste is that they have fewer nutrients as well.

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