This might seem like a strange question, but when I looked into this for the first time, I was dumbfounded by the answer. I knew what we called fresh food was not really all that fresh, but the actual age of our food is just ridiculous. What I found just as surprising was how this is not common knowledge. It is as if industry has been able to keep this out of the public eye. Very few people know the process our food goes through so that we can have the luxury of buying fresh food from the shelves of our supermarkets.
Did you also assume that our foods are available all year round because they get it from different parts of the country or the world for that matter? This would seem to make sense, but this is not entirely the case.
Firstly, fruits harvested before they are ripe have not reached their maximum level of nutritional value. Secondly, the prolonged storage of fresh fruit and vegetables under cold temperatures is associated with a decrease in certain antioxidants and vitamins. This happens because the biological degradation of these nutrients can proceed even under the chilled conditions.
Think about this logically for a second. When you pull a fruit or vegetable or tuber, or flower from its source, what immediately starts happening. They start dying. It would be the same as locking you up without food and water. Their source of sustenance is cut of and this means that from that from the moment we harvest a plant, or animal, they start losing nutrient value. Some studies done on Broccoli have shown a reduction in certain compounds of up to 70%. “…. the respective losses, at the end of cold storage and retail periods, were 71-80% of total glucosinolates, 62-59% of total flavonoids, 51-44% of sinapic acid derivatives, and 73-74% caffeoyl-quinic acid derivatives.” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12720387/)
Another study on strawberries found a similar reduction in vitamin C from harvested strawberries to the ones we buy on the shelf.
But just how long are our fresh food stored?
Here is a small sampling that will give you an idea of where we stand.
- Apples – storage time, 6 to 12 months
- Lettuce – storage time, 1 to 4 weeks
- Tomato – storage time, 1 to 6 weeks
- Carrot – storage time, 1 to 9 months
- Meats Storage time, 3 to 5 week
What is the solution?
This does not mean that food we buy is absolutely devoid of nutrients, however, it is clear that the foods we buy as fresh, is not and they have less nutrient availability than a fresh from the tree fruit. The solution to the problem will obviously be to plant your own fruits and veggies and get them as fresh as you can. Understandably this option is not always available.
You can also try buying from a farmers market. Which means having produce that was harvested the day before and is as fresh as you can get. I know in the big city areas this is not always available either. The next step to getting your hands on fresher foods might seem counter intuitive, but research does support that frozen food contains or rather retains more of its nutrients than food kept in long periods of controlled cold storage.
When we take into consideration the way our food is handled before we get the chance to prepare it into a delicious meal, we realize why the world health is in the state it is in. Our soils are over harvested which means there are slight deficiencies in nutrient uptake by our plant foods. The storage time of our foods robs us of more nutrients, and our own preparation of our food further destroys nutrient availability. This situation helps create the health and obesity epidemic of this modern era.
Our bodies are extremely clever, they know when we are deficient in nutrients and will try to push us to eat more to fill the voids of our nutrient profiles. Modern man, as is our nature, tries to solve this problem by producing pharmaceutical grade multivitamins to make up for the deficiency in our foods. There is however another problem with this, and it is that the bio availability of laboratory vitamins are not as high as from natural food sources. I am not saying they don’t help, I am just saying they are not as effective as you might think
Extrapolate all this to food products that is produced in factories and you can understand the further deterioration of nutrient values in food that is promoted as healthy.