Buying food knowledgeably, storing it carefully, and using cooking methods that preserve vitamins and minerals can greatly enhance the nutritional value of the foods in your diet.
Buy cereals and breads made from whole grains rather than processed grains. Most of the vitamins and minerals are removed in the milling process. Some but not all of those nutrients are replaced if the grain is “enriched” and some nutrients, such as folic acid, are now being added to “fortify” grain and other products. If you can’t find whole-grain products, try for an enriched product. Non-enriched, processed products are least desirable.
Frozen meats, poultry, and vegetables are essentially equal to their fresh counterparts when it comes to vitamin and mineral content. The flash-freezing process used to prepare frozen foods does not result in vitamin losses, except for vitamin E. They maintain their full vitamin content through the cooking process because of the sealed pouch. Avoid packages that have ice crystals on the outside; that indicates they’ve been thawed and refrozen, which may mean they’ve lost nutrients and/or been contaminated with bacteria. I have read that fish high in Omega 3 when frozen lose about one third of the Omega 3. However two thirds of Omega 3 is still better than no thirds.
Avoid canned vegetables. Any water-soluble vitamins left in the vegetables after processing dissolve in the water used in the packing process and are lost for nutritional purposes. In addition, most people are better off without the salt and sugar that may be added to canned foods to preserve them and make them taste better.
Never buy cans that have dents, bulges, or are rusting. They may be contaminated with bacteria.
Fresh and frozen fruits are preferable to canned fruits because of potential losses of their water-soluble vitamin content during storage. Fresh fruits may take several days or weeks to reach you, during which time they can begin to lose vitamin content. Still, we believe that fresh fruits should be your first choice—the fresher the better! Frozen fruits are a good second choice since they maintain their vitamin content in the same way as frozen vegetables do. Canned fruits are a poor third choice.
Colour may be an indicator of vitamin content. For example, vitamin A is orange in colour, and those foods with a high vitamin A content, such as carrots, reflect that colour. When buying fresh fruits and vegetables, look for those with a deep, rich colour.
Don’t keep fresh fruits and vegetables around the house until they are overripe. The continuing enzymatic process of fruit ripening can lead to the loss of valuable vitamin content. If you buy fresh produce, buy only enough to last a few days (and no more than a week).
Homegrown fruits and vegetables are not nutritionally superior to the kind you can buy in your supermarket. However, they usually taste better because they are allowed to ripen naturally before you pick and eat them. And they may not contain pesticides, if you choose to and can grow them without using such products.