The fresher the better - part II 23/03/2017, Health & Lifestyle
Many of us are looking to make positive changes to improve our health and happiness for good. In the second of a series of three guest blogs, nutritional therapist and author Sally Beare (www.sallybeare.com) looks at how fresher foods can taste better.
No more cardboard
Your grandparents may have told you that fruit and vegetables used to have much more taste than the ‘cardboardy’ supermarket produce sold today. As our food gets blander, the more we want to drench it in sugar, salt and synthetic flavours. But high-quality, nutrient-rich produce which is full of its own natural taste doesn't need to be enhanced in this way.
Fresh produce is higher in taste and nutrients
As any top chef will tell you, fresh local food usually has more flavour than supermarket produce. This is partly because it has had less time to lose nutrients, and nutrients create taste. 1 Local farmers also tend to favour varieties which have more flavour and higher nutrient quality, since this is what their consumers look for, whereas supermarket produce is more likely to be chosen for shippability and durability, at the expense of nutrient value. 2
Many fruits and some veg have the supermarket-friendly talent of being able to ripen after they have been picked. They are harvested early, so that they can wait in trucks or storerooms as required, and when they are hard and unripe they can withstand being thrown around in crates during their travels. They may then colour up and go soft in your fruit bowl at home, but they will not have had a chance to achieve full nutrient value or taste.
Locally-sourced produce, on the other hand, can be picked at or very near peak ripeness. This means that the mature fruit or vegetable has had more time to reach its full quota of certain nutrients. The total vitamin C content of red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, peaches and papayas, for example, has been shown to be higher when these crops are picked ripe from the plant. 3, 4
Let soil be thy medicine
Another great advantage of fresh, local produce from small-scale farms is that it tends to be grown in lovingly-tended, nutrient-rich soil. The soil on organic farms in particular is fertilised with composts and manures, keeping it high in micronutrients which then find their way into the plants, animal crops, and animals. Our health is closely related to our soil quality, and the declining health of modern populations can be partly linked to the degraded soil on large industrial farms and the insipid, low-nutrient crops which result. 5, 6
Soil is, or should be, living matter - it contains as many microorganisms per teaspoon as there are people on the planet. These microorganisms convert decaying plants and animal residue into nutrients for plants, making them a richer source of nutrients for us. And when we eat produce from this soil, the soil microbes and their DNA ‘hitchhike’ into us on our food, transferring crucial health information to their associates in our guts. This means that pulling a carrot or other vegetable out of the ground - or having it delivered within hours of picking - giving it a cursory rinse, and eating it with the peel is potentially one of the best things we can do for our health.
Sally Beare, dip BCNH, CNHC
Sally Beare is a nutritional therapist and the author of The Live-Longer Diet, 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest-Living People and The Stacking Plan. Sally is also the nutrition columnist for Juno natural parenting magazine. She currently practices in Bristol, UK.
1.Goff, Stephen A; Klee, Harry J (2006). Plant Volatile Compounds: Sensory Cues for Health and Nutritional Value? Science 311 (5762) 815-819.
Lee, SK, Kader, A.A (2000). Preharvest and postharvest factors influencing vitamin C content of horticultural crops. Postharvest Biol Technol. 20: 207–220.
Dumas, Y et al (2003). Review. Effects of environmental factors and agricultural techniques on antioxidant content of tomatoes. J Sci Food Agric. 83: 369–382.
5.Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD (2004). Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. J Am Coll Nutr