Shoppers are often attracted to the lower price tag of frozen fruit, but worry that they lack the same nutrition as fresh. Not true. Many fruit attain their highest concentrations of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals when at the peak of ripeness. These valuable compounds are fragile and degrade with elapsed time, air exposure and temperature change. Eating at this perfect moment of maturation would be the ideal scenario. However unless you’re living on or near a farm, or tending your own fruit garden, this likely isn’t possible.
Fresh fruit are often plucked just before they ripen. This allows them to continue to mature during the sometimes lengthy journey from the farm to the distributor to the market so that they’ll peak when presented to the consumer. But by the time fruit are purchased, toted home and finally reach our lips, they are still healthful, but past their nutritional prime.
On the other hand, producers of frozen fruit harvest when they are ripe and flash freeze them almost immediately after they are plucked from the vine, the bush or the branch. Frozen fruit do experience a decline in nutrients with the moisture loss of long-term storage, but the freezing cold temperatures can slow or halt the loss of some of the nutrients, especially vitamin C. Interestingly, results of comparative studies don’t show any significant difference in their nutritional content. So, if your fresh seasonal fruit are eating a hole in your food budget and you’re incorporating them into combined recipes (like smoothies and porridge), swing through the freezer aisle for a nutritionally suitable substitute.
Fresh fruit growers and distributors go to great lengths to ensure the desirability of their products at point of sale. Many treat them with chemicals to avoid spoilage, individually wrap them to prevent blemishes and bruising, as well as transport and store them in temperature- and pressure-controlled environments to preserve freshness. Once at the market, the fruit are left to fend for themselves in the open air. If the fruit aren’t ripe yet, room temperatures can encourage ripening. But once ripe, storing fruit in a cooler temperature often help to avoid degradation of nutrients and slow the rate of spoilage.
Many fruit spend one to three days on display in stores — which shoppers can’t really avoid. On arrival at home, most consumers, especially those who stock up in large quantities, store their produce for up to a week before eating it. Many display their healthy purchases in a bowl on the countertop. Don’t do either. Instead, while it might entail a second visit to the store, buy smaller amounts. Take it one step further and ask your grocery when their deliveries arrive and plan your trip soon thereafter. Once home, drop your fruit in the fridge. You’ll get more bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking.
3. Keep The Peel On
Watermelon, oranges and bananas — the peels of these fruit are clearly intended for removal. But for other varieties with edible peels, the “on or off” verdict is usually matter of mere personal preference. If you aren’t into the peel for texture or taste reasons, there is no need to force-feed yourself. However, if you’re otherwise ambivalent, keep it on.
These oft-discarded components are rich in valuable nutrition. Fruit peels offer fibre, which promote bowel regularity and support the health of our gastrointestinal tract. Why? They also offer weight and blood sugar control perks too. Fibres keep us feeling fuller for longer and slow the release of the fruit’s sugars into the bloodstream, tempering blood sugar fluctuations. Studies also show that many of the beneficial phytochemicals and vitamins reside in the colourful peel. To take full advantage, consider brightly hued fruit, such as grapes and blueberries, that offer more peel than others.
Your fruit travel a long way from the farm to your kitchen. Along the way, they collect souvenirs — chemicals, dirt, bacteria and debris — on their exterior from Mother Nature, from transport bins and vehicles, and from human hands. As a best practice, wash all fruit — those you eat in their entirety, as well as those with thick exterior rinds you plan to slice off and toss in the trash. The visible and invisible debris on the surface will travel with your knife and coat the fleshy bits you’ll eventually pop in your mouth. Most sources suggest that a thorough water wash — minding the nooks and crannies near the stems — removes 98% of bacteria and superficial particles.
5. Wax Off
Another variable which few consumers are aware of or consider is wax. Many fruit have natural waxes on their surfaces. However, distributors remove this coating when cleaning the fruit, leaving the fruit vulnerable to shrinkage, spoilage and bruising. So companies then dunk or spray fruit with a second layer of wax, either made from more natural agents (like sugar cane, beeswax or carnauba) or synthetic petroleum-based solutions. These waxes exist on both organic and conventional products. Removing this protective layer can require additional effort. Store-bought washing solutions are available, but soaking in a bath with a natural agent like baking soda, lemon or vinegar and gentle scrubbing can also do the trick.
For environmentally and health-conscious consumers, going the organic way is usually preferred. Pesticide-free products curtail the disruption of agricultural ecosystems and reduce our body’s exposure to potentially harmful chemical residues. But for many, purely organic purchasing isn’t possible for our pocketbooks. The solution is to be selective about your organic buys. Certain fruit, often referred to as “the Dirty Dozen”, require excess amounts of herbicides and fertilisers to thrive. A few of the leaders on this list: strawberries, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries and pears. It is recommended to buy such fruit that are grown organically. On the other hand, choosing conventional might be A-OK for other fruit that grow well sans chemicals, such as papaya, avocado, cantaloupe, mango, pineapple and kiwi, to name a few.
7. Portion Control
Fruit are indeed packed with healthful compounds, but that doesn’t give us licence to eat unlimited amounts. Juicy and full of flavour — it’s not difficult to accidentally overdo it. That desirable sweetness is derived from fructose, a natural sugar in fruit. Just as with other sugar sources, too much can add up to blood sugar fluctuations, cravings and even weight gain, for sensitive systems. Most sources suggest having a few servings of fruit a day is entirely benign. The trouble is, fruit fans often tally their fruit intake by the number of fruit rather than the number of portions. By most international standards, a single portion of fresh fruit is approximately 80 to 100g or half a cup, equivalent to the size of a woman’s closed fist or a tennis ball. Fruit sizes vary drastically. Some single bananas and jumbo apples actually count as two or more servings.
Fruit contain carbohydrates — nature-made sugars (fructose) and fibres. For dieters who shun all carbs, this fact often moves fruit into the red, “no go”, “do not touch” zone. Individuals with medically sugar-sensitive systems can develop fruit fears. However, there is no need to avoid fruit altogether. A trick that helps us benefit from fruit’s myriad advantageous vitamins, minerals and antioxidant compounds while controlling the total amount of carbohydrates is to be mindful of the form of fruit.
When consumed whole, the watery flesh of fruit fills us up. When they are concentrated, we need to be careful when consuming them. Portions easily become distorted and calories, carbohydrates and sugars quickly add up. One half-cup, 120ml portion of juice can contain three apples. Likewise, with juices, we remove the fibre and pulp which delay the pace of digestive processing, and extract fruit’s sugary, flavoured liquid. With dried fruit, we merely shrink the fruit by removing only the water. An entire mango is reduced to a mere 30g handful. The sweet, bite-sized nibbles are as tempting as nature-made candies — and they impact our blood sugar levels just as candies do too.
9. Do Not Eat In Isolation
No, I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t eat fruit by yourself. Instead, I’m suggesting against eating your fruit by themselves. Fruit do contain proteins and fats, but usually in just modest or trace amounts. Of all three of these macronutrients, carbohydrates are digested most quickly. Eating them alone is helpful when we need fast and readily available fuel, like before or during exercise. But under other conditions which do not require energy for movement, this doesn’t always serve us well.
Fruit snacks will spike blood sugar levels and do not keep us satisfied for long. In fact, some studies show that fructose — the fruit’s natural sugars — can prompt the release of our hunger-stimulating hormones. To temper the independent effects of fruit, it can help to pair them with a food source of protein or fat. These nutrients require more time for digestive processing, which controls blood sugar levels and helps curb post-meal cravings. For instance, pair an apple with a swipe of nut butter. Serve sliced bananas over yoghurt. Sprinkle chia seeds on your bowl of berries.
Fruit tastes wonderful for most everyone. But for some, it doesn’t sit well on the digestive system. There are a number of reasons for this, but intolerance to fructose — the main sugar in fruit — is a common culprit. In fact, some sources suggest that nearly a third of the population doesn’t optimally process dietary fructose. Levels of sensitivity vary, but when a person consumes more than his or her system can manage, bloating, flatulence cramping and diarrhoea can arise.
If these symptoms occur occasionally for you, rewind your food choices for the day. If you notice extra fruit, you might consider tailoring your intake. Watch your overall number of servings and consider low-fructose fruit like berries and citrus. It is also important to note that fructose exists in highest concentrations in processed products containing high-fructose corn syrup. So before passing on the fruit, you might want to pass on the sweetened treats, instead.