Produce pros and cons
By member Kristen Sherman, Muncie, Ind.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
In the beginning God created an abundance of seed-bearing fruits and vegetables in a wonderful variety of colors, shapes and textures. With modern preservation techniques and shipping, today we can even enjoy produce from all over the world.
Going to the grocery store presents many choices and is sometimes confusing. Do you choose locally-grown produce? Produce from another country? Fresh? Frozen? Canned? Organic? Discounted produce?
Consider the following as you peruse your local market’s produce aisle:
Organic produce: Organic produce is grown from non-GMO (made without genetically modified organisms) plants. With conventional farming practices, pesticide residues are kept to a minimum; organically-grown produce has even less pesticide exposure since very few chemicals are allowed in organic farming.
The cons: Expensive, shorter shelf life; some produce types don’t have health benefits over conventionally-grown produce.
Canned produce: Canning makes a slew of products available to us. Canned produce has a very long shelf life, doesn’t require refrigeration, is convenient, and typically is cheaper than fresh or frozen.
The cons: Decrease in taste quality, some nutrient loss from processing, often high in sodium or sugar, potential exposure to tin if foods are eaten past expiration date and potential exposure to BPA (an industrial chemical in can lining that can cause health problems, especially in young children).
Frozen produce: Based on taste, many people prefer frozen vegetables to the canned variety. Also, frozen produce generally costs less than fresh. It requires a little more prep than canned but is still convenient. It is picked, processed and frozen at its peak stage of ripening so that few nutrients are lost.
The cons: May contain added sugars or salt, blanching and freezing decreases some of the beneficial properties of produce
Fresh produce: Most people rank fresh produce as most enjoyable. It has superior taste and texture and allows complete control over any addition of salt or sugar. When consumed soon after harvest, fresh produce contains the highest level of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial properties compared to canned or frozen fruits and veggies.
The cons: Requires more planning and preparation, often more expensive, seasonal availability, may still be treated with preservation techniques, can have less nutrient value than canned or frozen produce depending on timing (shipping, purchasing and eating).
Discounted fresh produce: Purchasing produce at a discounted cost is one way to save money. Keep in mind that the older a fruit or vegetable, the greater the loss of vitamin and mineral content. However, if discounted produce is what best fits your budget, go for it. Even less-than-optimal produce still contains other valuable nutrients. The more fruits and vegetables in your diet, the better.
The cons: Very short shelf life, potential lower nutrient content.
To enjoy the freshest possible produce this summer, consider a family project of growing a container garden. Growing your own food can be very satisfying. You have complete control over what pesticides you use and what type of plants you grow. Eating soon after picking will give you the highest nutrient content. It’s simple to get started:
- Space: Decide where to locate your garden, such as a on a porch or apartment balcony.
- Containers: Flower pots work well, as do other makeshift containers such as a milk jug with the top cut off. Don’t forget to poke holes in the bottom of containers to ensure proper drainage.
- Soil: Potting soil or dirt from your yard works well.
- Seeds or plants
Choose as few or as many produce types as you wish. Placing plants where they will be seen daily will help you remember to care for them. It also aids in timely picking and eating enjoyment.
If container gardening seems too daunting, a local farmers’ market is another option for obtaining high-quality and nutrient-dense produce. You can find organic and non-GMO produce as well as preservative-free and natural produce. You may even leave feeling good about supporting a local farmer with your purchase. Plus, farmers’ markets are fun to explore!
What form of produce is best for you depends on your preferences regarding time, taste and convenience. No matter how you select your produce, may you savor God’s bounty of seed-bearing plants and trees. Our Creator has given us many types of produce for our nourishment and enjoyment.
Editor’s note: Kristen Sherman is a registered dietitian and an international board-certified lactation consultant. She also serves as a nutritional consultant for companies launching educational products. Kristen and her husband, Pastor Michael Sherman, have been CHM members since Jan. 2017 and reside in Muncie, Ind.