Keep your spuds and citrus fruits out of the fridge: it's good for you

Keep your spuds and citrus fruits out of the fridge: it's good for you

Did you know that the way you store your fresh produce can affect its nutritional value?

Thanks to stringent food safety standards in Australia we’re less likely to experience nasty tummy bugs caused by harmful micro-organisms and bacteria. However refrigerating some vegetables, fruits and herbs can mean sacrificing texture, taste and nutritional benefits.

How do cooler temperatures affect fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs?

Once a plant product is removed from its source it starts losing water and nutrients. Add to that cold storage where temperatures are below that which the plants have flourished and grown well in, can cause further degradation of nutrients and vitamins. If you really take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. Why would a tropical fruit fare well in a dark 4 degree [or cooler] Celsius fridge?

Water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C are fragile and can be destroyed if stored at too low temperatures, or when cooked. 

Tropical fruit and vegetables

According to the CSIRO, fresh produce grown in tropical climates such as pineapple and bananas are chill-sensitive and should never be stored in refrigeration.

Chill-sensitive fruits and vegetables can’t carry on normal metabolic processes at cool temperatures leading to deterioration.  Chilling-injuries include discolouration, loss of flavour and decay. So, keep your tropical fruits and vegetables out of the fridge.

However, once fruits are peeled or cut, they should then be refrigerated according to the Food Safety Information Council.

Citrus

Many citrus fruits are prone to ‘chilling-injury’. According to the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in New South Wales, ‘grapefruit are among the most susceptible citrus species to develop chilling injury when stored at temperatures below 8–10 °C’. For optimum nutritional and flavoursome benefit, store your citrus in a fruit bowl on the dining table or your kitchen bench but out of direct sunlight.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes smell of summer and fresh garden salads. Tomatoes always taste better out of the fridge, although once they’re really ripe popping them in the fridge can help slow down decay.

This salad favourite definitely loses flavour when refrigerated. At the same time, the texture changes too.

The CSIRO guidelines recommend that tomatoes are ripened at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and in mildly warm temperatures.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Cool temperatures break down the starches in tuber vegetables like potatoes and kumara or sweet potatoes by converting the starches to sugar, making them taste sweeter, but becoming less appealing in texture.

There is research to suggest an association between a chemical called acrylamide and cancer in laboratory animals. Acrylamide can be produced when certain starchy foods like potatoes are cooked or processed, but it is also hypothesised that refrigeration of potatoes can promote the production of acrylamide.  Food Safety Australia and New Zealand believes we must minimise our exposure to acrylamide in what we eat.

So keep your potatoes out of the fridge. Find a cool, dark, well ventilated location to store them – somewhere away from light to avoid sprouting too, as sprouting generates toxins.

For more information

Visit the following authorities for recommendations on fruit and vegetable storage for safe and optimal benefits:

Eat for Health > Food Safety

Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ)

Food Safety Standards

Photo by Linh Pham on Unsplash

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