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How to Make the Most of Your Fresh Produce

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Last Updated on April 26, 2020

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. men and women are obese or overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight may lower blood pressure and blood sugar and keep cholesterol levels in check. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward achieving a healthy weight. One of the obstacles Americans face when it comes to buying produce is cost. The prices of fresh fruits and vegetables add up -- especially if you are continually buying them on every trip to the grocery store.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. men and women are obese or overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight may lower blood pressure and blood sugar and keep cholesterol levels in check. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward achieving a healthy weight. One of the obstacles Americans face when it comes to buying produce is cost. The prices of fresh fruits and vegetables add up — especially if you are continually buying them on every trip to the grocery store.

Eat healthy year-round — and do it without breaking the bank — by carefully preparing and storing fresh produce.

1. Prepare Produce For Storage Right Away

To extend the life of your produce, it is critical to put it away as soon as possible. Do not make extra trips on the way home. Once you arrive home, pull out perishables first and properly store fruits and vegetables as soon as you can.

Before putting fruits and vegetables away, take a good look at them and make adjustments as necessary. For example, remove any twigs, leaves, and debris from fresh berries. Sort through fresh berries and remove any that may be soft, moldy, or going off. The proper way to store berries depends on the berry in question. Blueberries keep well in the original container as long as you eat them within five days. Strawberries do best if you take them out of the original container and put them in another one with an air-tight seal. With an air-tight seal, strawberries will stay as fresh as possible for two to three days. Raspberries need air. Put them on a paper towel-lined plate and keep them that way for up to two to three days.

For vegetables, remove the tops of any root vegetables, including carrots, turnips, rutabaga, beets, and radishes. The tops will drain moisture from the rest of the vegetable, significantly cutting into its shelf life. Conversely, too much moisture can also be a problem. “If vegetables are wet from constant grocery case spraying or from a big rain the night before the farmers market, make sure to pat produce dry before storing it,” Kitchn recommends.

For both fruits and vegetables, be mindful of the exact location you choose for them. Any produce in the fridge should be stowed near the front, away from the back that can accumulate moisture or — in particularly chilly refrigerators — even ice. For those that do best at room temperature, find a cool, dry place. Never store fresh produce near the stove, near the window, or on top of the refrigerator. Find a spot with ample shade. For those with finished basements, that is where fruits and vegetables tend to hold up best.

2. Thoroughly Wash Fruits And Vegetables Before Using Them

Do not assume that fresh produce is clean! Germs, like the common cold, can live on surfaces for hours — sometimes even days. Plus, the presence of these germs is not always obvious. You may not show symptoms of the common cold, for example, until 24 hours to three days after first coming into contact with lingering germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises washing your hands first, then thoroughly rinsing and washing produce under running water. It is important to wash fresh produce even if you will not eat the skin or peel. Cut off any bruised or visibly damaged spots before rinsing fruits and vegetables. A word of caution: do not scrub produce too vigorously. It is always imperative to keep the skin or peel intact to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Regular rinsing and washing removes 75% to 80% of remaining pesticide material, according to NDTV Food. To boost that percentage, wash fruits and vegetables with 2% salt water.

3. Choose Fruits And Veggies That Are In-Season

Fresh produce that is in-season will be the most affordable and the most flavorful — and it will last the longest, too. Learn what fruits and veggies are in-season. Vegetables in-season in spring in North America include asparagus, avocado, fava beans, artichoke, fennel, turnips, broccoli, radishes, and rhubarb. Grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple, and blood oranges are among the most popular fruits in-season this spring.

Prepare recipes using seasonal fruits and vegetables. The Every Girl suggests Chickpea Pasta with Basil Pea Pesto, a light and refreshing springtime dish using in-season veggies.

4. Learn About The Nutrients In Produce

Making the most of produce means knowing what to expect from it, too! If your goal is to burn fat and build muscle, there are fruits and veggies that can specifically help you achieve that goal. Remember, the human body contains over 650 muscles. Building muscle helps maintain a healthy weight because muscle burns more calories than fat.

To build healthy muscle, try regularly eating these vegetables: beets, spinach, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. Beets contain nitrates that increase blood flow to crucial muscles, like the fast-twitch muscles associated with endurance. “Runners who ate baked beets before a 5k race ran 5% faster,” according to Eat This, Not That! and the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Spinach is packed with iron and magnesium, two nutrients that help boost energy levels and build strength. Sweet potatoes have a ton of carbs and fiber and a low glycemic index. This combination helps people make the most of their workouts and stay fuller or satiated longer. Finally, soybeans are high in protein and leucine. The amino acid leucine helps protein get to muscles faster, and protein builds muscle.

5. Remember Why It Is Important To Eat Healthy

In order to get the most out of your produce, it is helpful to remember why you prioritize eating fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet — and particularly one rich in fruits and vegetables — supports other healthy habits. Those who eat a healthy diet are also more likely to exercise and get more restful sleep. That’s an important benefit, especially given that over two-thirds of Americans with gym memberships — or 67% — do not use them. Blueberries, cantaloupe, strawberries, mango, spinach, tomatoes, citrus fruits, peppers, and sweet potatoes are all energizing foods, according to WebMD.

Maintain a healthy weight. Have more energy, boost your immune system, and stave off chronic inflammation, heart disease, and cancers by eating a diet packed with produce. Get the most out of your produce by knowing the ways it benefits you and using quick and easy tips to extend fruit and vegetables’ shelf life. Extending the shelf life will get you the most bang for your buck and keep the cost of eating fresh fruits and vegetables low.