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Fresh is Best

November 26, 2018

With so many products on our supermarket shelves being made to look healthy by clever marketing tricks and deceptive labelling, it’s time to take a step back, define “fresh” and take a look and what we are really eating. Fresh foods are not frozen or preserved in any way. They are usually sourced locally and retain all of the nutritional value and flavour without any additions or manipulation.

It’s misleading when items such as fruit and vegetable juice or even the dehydrated fruit in dry cereals are marketed by some manufacturers as counting towards fruit and vegetable servings.

The definition of “fresh” is often misconstrued by simply serving an item at the expected temperature – hot or cold. 

Labels can be deceiving too, seemingly endless products labelled as “natural” and “organic” may not be as good for you as you think.

Additives such and poor quality ingredients undermine the overall nutritional value of foods. What is not highlighted by many food labels or manufacturers are all the hidden ingredients – from added sugar, sodium, and unpronounceable preservatives, to additives, flavouring, and colouring.  Commonly used, artificially enriched grains are not as healthy as those that remain intact during production. The addition of brown colouring to some breads may mislead consumers into thinking they are purchasing whole grains, when in fact the product is not.  Due to the need to extend shelf-life and reduce manufacturing costs, many lesser quality ingredients are often utilised – including those that are harmful to our health, like sodium solution fillers or saturated and hydrogenated fat sources.

When you walk through the aisle in the supermarket, most cereals have a fortified certification on them; fortified with six different vitamins and minerals. The question you should be asking is: What happened to the vitamins and minerals that were in there to begin with? They got processed out.

Focusing on fresh ingredients not only promotes improved health, but also boosts nutrients and flavour profiles.  Any type of processing such as canning, freezing or drying can deteriorate the quality of and amount of nutrients, fibre, flavour, and even natural colour.  A simple test is comparing fresh, frozen, and canned carrots.  The fresh carrots retain a bright orange colour, with a crispness superior to the canned or frozen variety.

Processing of any type also reduces the nutrient content, and may even strip away those vital antioxidants that support immune health and protect cells from damage. In addition, choosing fresh ingredients promotes synergy of nutrients that may not necessarily occur if the items were processed.  Even after processed grains are enriched, the final product is less nutritious than the original whole grain.  As a result, much of the fibre content is lost, meaning you need to consume much larger quantities than you would if is in its raw form.

Many consumers choose pre-made frozen entrees and sides simply for convenience, but typical sodium content for a frozen entrée ranges 700 to 1300 mg – 30-50% of the daily maximum recommendation of 2500 mg.  According to the CDC, a reduction of sodium intake from the current national average of 3400 mg to 2300 mg per day may reduce cases of high blood pressure by 11 million per year!It may be surprising but buying fresh, raw ingredients is less expensive than selecting processed items.The more steps required to process a food item, the higher the cost. 

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