Prioritise seasonal and regional
Fresh foods are indeed the best choice, provided they are seasonal and from the local region. After all, we can then be sure that the fruits and vegetables are freshly harvested and didn’t spend long on the road and in storage. This ensures that as many vitamins and minerals as possible are retained. But it’s not always possible to go to a market or a local farmer's shop. Are there any healthy alternatives?
Extending the shelf-life of vegetables
Preservation is the key word. This means extending a food’s shelf life by slowing down the natural decomposition processes. Depending on the preservation method, nutrients either get lost or else, in some cases, remain or even improve.
From the freezer: a good alternative
If you don't have access to freshly harvested vegetables, a healthy alternative is the frozen version. The foods are harvested ripe, at maximum nutrient density, partially blanched and then directly shock-frozen. Temperatures of minus 30 to 50 degrees interrupt the enzymatic degradation processes, yet the vegetables retain their valuable substances and a large part of their cell structure.
Vitamin C content is quickly lost
Green beans and spinach in particular are often better from the freezer than fresh, because the vitamin C they contain is very sensitive. If fresh spinach is stored at room temperature for 24-48 hours, it already loses over 50% of its vitamin C content. The difference between frozen spinach and spinach from the fridge harvested ten days ago is even more evident. Here, frozen produce is clearly superior to fresh. Other advantages include the long shelf life, portioning and availability of seasonal products.
In the end, if you’re not sure when shopping whether you’ll be using those fresh beans in the next few days, feel free to go for the frozen variety.
Fermented – Grandma knows what’s good
Fermentation is used not only to preserve food, but also to change its taste. Triggered by different micro-organisms (bacteria, yeast or mould), the method was used by our grandmothers’ generation to preserve all kinds of food.
Fermented foods that we should be eating
sour dough bread
The drying process extracts water from the foods, which deprives bacteria and fungi of their breeding ground. Minerals and many of the vitamins remain intact in this method. At the same time, the dehydration process concentrates the nutrients. This means that 100g of dried fruits, for example, contain more potassium, iron and magnesium than 100g of fresh fruits. But be careful: the same goes for the fructose and therefore calories. For this reason, eat dried fruit in moderation.
Better than nothing: canning
The advantage of canned goods is that they can be kept for years. But that’s where the benefits end. Canned food loses a lot of its nutrients compared to frozen and fresh food. In order to preserve the food, it is usually heated twice, which is where most of the water-soluble vitamins are lost. This isn't a problem when it comes to pulses like chickpeas, lentils and beans, as these are cooked anyway before being eaten.
Caution with additives. Canned vegetables are often heavily salted and fruits are sweetened with sugar, making them inadvisable options to their fresh varieties.
It’s all in the mix
Quick chickpeas from a can mixed with fresh vegetables is an excellent combination for a balanced and nutritious diet.