Fresh is best – or so we’re always told. But most of our food isn’t actually as fresh as we think it is.
In fact, supermarket ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables can be anything from a month to a year old before they’re wrapped in plastic, sprayed with ethylene and sold to us as fresh.
This is important because it means that most of us are not getting the nutrients we need from the food we are eating. Why?
Because vitamins and minerals start to degrade as soon as a plant is harvested. Within just 7 days a chilled strawberry has lost 80% of its polyphenol content. Chilled storage slows down the oxidation of unstable vitamins and minerals, but it does not stop it.
Food grown using pesticides has fewer nutrients
High yield, high margin
Our food system is focussed on high yield, high margin foods that require huge amounts of fossil fuels, energy and chemicals to transport, store and deliver ‘fresh’.
Because foods grown using pesticides and fertilisers have fewer nutrients.
It also has serious environmental and ecological implications.
1/3 of the food produced globally each year is wasted.
25% of the planet’s water supply is used to grow food that is wasted each year.
75% amount of grain goes to feed animals and not humans
These statistics show that high yield farming is not working. We are pillaging the worlds resources to grow food that, in the best case is nutritionally empty, and in the worst case gets wasted.
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So maybe it’s time to reassess our obsession with fresh?
Processes like freezing, dehydrating and freeze-drying are ways that we can capture foods when they are at the most ripe, and preserve them to prevent unnecessary waste.
These processes should not be sneered at, because they can deliver food with a higher nutritional content, and in some cases a lower environmental impact than the energy intensive supply chains required to deliver ‘fresh’ produce all year round.
Fresh, stone-ground wheat has a shelf life of a couple of weeks. This is because it is alive and contains the nutritious wheat germ and bran. Highly processed flour has a shelf life of years, and contains 20% of the nutrients of stone-ground flour.
Fresh foods have a short shelf life. They should be consumed locally and quickly.
Foods that cannot be consumed quickly should be preserved using natural processed such as freezing, dehydrating, picking, preserving or freeze-drying.