Even if you toss the freshest, most wholesome foods into your cart, you may be storing and preparing them in ways that rob them (and your body) of the very nutrients you’re seeking. Here are nine typical kitchen blunders to avoid.
Mistake #1: Produce overload
Sure, making one big grocery run at the start of the week seems like a no-fail way to get your five a day. But the vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables begin to diminish the moment they're harvested, meaning the longer you store produce, the fewer nutrients it will contain. After about a week in the fridge, for example, spinach retains just half of its folate and around 60 percent of its lutein (an antioxidant associated with healthy eyes). Broccoli loses about 62 percent of its flavonoids (antioxidant compounds that help ward off cancer and heart disease) within 10 days.
Solution: Buy smaller batches at least twice a week. If you can't shop every few days, go froze. These fruits and veggies are harvested at their peak and are flash-frozen immediately. Because the produce isn't exposed to oxygen, the nutrients stay stable for a year, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. Just be sure to avoid frozen products packed in sauces or syrups. These can mean extra calories from fat or sugar, and may be high in sodium as well.
Mistake #2: You're stashing foods in see-through containers
Milk is rich in the B vitamin riboflavin, but when exposed to light, a chemical reaction is kicked off that reduces the vitamin's potency, according to researchers from Ghent University in Belgium. Other nutrients, such as amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and vitamins A, C, D, and E, are also affected. And because lowfat and nonfat milk varieties are thinner than whole milk, light can penetrate them more easily. This process, known as photooxidation, can change the flavor of the milk and create disease-causing free radicals. Since grain products (especially whole grains) are also high in riboflavin, they too are susceptible to this breakdown of nutrients and production of free radicals.
Solution: If you're still buying your milk in clear plastic jugs, consider switching to cardboard cartons. And avoid storing dry goods like pasta, rice, and cereals in clear containers on your countertop. Instead, keep them in their original boxes or in opaque containers and stash them in your kitchen cabinets, where they'll be shielded from light.