This week, Kassie Nicknadarvich, a clinical dietitian at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, discusses the nutritional value of produce that's not in season.
Question. We all know fruit and vegetables look and taste better when they're in season, but is there any difference in their nutritional value when produce is in season or ripe?
Answer. Yes, there are nutritional factors to consider when purchasing produce out of season.
Let's say you are buying tomatoes in January. The tomato was most likely picked well before it was ripe. Usually, products undergo treatment to preserve appearance and prevent ripening while being transported to the desired location thousands of miles away. This whole process affects the vitamins and minerals of the product since the produce was not able to fully mature on the vine. Also, produce can be exposed to fluctuation of heat and light, which can degrade some nutrients, especially vitamins B and C.
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When produce can be purchased in season and from a local farm, the nutritional quality is going to be much greater as it was able to ripen longer.
Purchasing frozen produce when items are out of season is an alternative to consider. Frozen produce is typically picked off the vine at its peak ripeness and frozen to retain more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. There will be some early nutrient loss in the process of freezing, but freezing helps lock-in most nutrients for later consumption.
So for the most nutritious produce, pick fruits and vegetables that are in season and don't forget about the frozen section.
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