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Produce Power

By Monique Ryan

Filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and tongue-twisting disease-fighting phytonutrients, make the most of fresh produce by choosing and storing it properly.  Avoid any cut, bruised or wilted produce and wash thoroughly just before consumption.

produceLet’s take a look at what nutrients fresh fruits and vegetables provide, as well as how guidelines for purchasing these foods and consuming them at their peak.

Apples (fiber, quercetin) — Firm, no soft spots, good color; refrigerate up to six weeks in plastic bag.

Apricots (fiber, vitamin A, carotenoids) — Plump and golden yellow; refrigerate up to two to three days in paper or plastic bag.

Asparagus (folate, glutathione ) — Firm, thick stalks with deep green or purplish tips; wrap bottoms in wet paper towel and store in the crisper for two to three days.

Bananas (potassium, vitamin B6, potassium) — Ripen at room temperature to yellow color; up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Blueberries (vitamin C, anthocyanidins) — Buy firm, uniform in size; refrigerate three to five days.

Broccoli (folate, vitamin K,  A, and C, sulforaphane ) — Dark green, firm stalks, closed florets, store unwashed in perforated bag in crisper for three to five days.

Carrots (beta-carotene) — Deep orange, remove green leafy tops; store in crisper for several days.

Celery (apigenin, luteolin, phthalides) — Buy shiny and light in color; one week stored as bunch in plastic bag in refrigerator.

Corn (fiber, leutin,) — Tight green husks with compact rows of kernels; eat immediately or refrigerate in husk for four days.

Grapefruit (vitamins A and C, potassium, flavonoids, limonoids ) — Glossy, round, smooth and heavy;  room temperature for one week,  refrigerate for six to eight weeks.

Grapes (resveratrol, quercetin, catechins, anthocyanins, potassium) — Firm, plump, good color; refrigerate up to one week in ventilated plastic bag.

Kiwifruit (potassium, vitamin C, leutin, copper) — Ripen firm fruit at room temperature; refrigerate up to three weeks.

Lettuce (vitamin A, folate ) — Crisp leaves, no dark spots or edges, plastic bag in crisper; endive lasts four days, romaine 10 days, and iceberg lettuce two weeks.

Mushrooms (B vitamins, selenium, copper) — Plump, dry , blemish-free; refrigerate in container or  paper bag one week.

Orange (folate, vitamin C, potassium, flavonoids, limonoids, carotenoids) — Firm, bright, heavy, with no wrinkles; refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Peach (beta-carotene, potassium, quercetin, kaempferol ) — Slightly soft and aromatic; refrigerate ripe  one week.

Pear (fiber, catechins, potassium ) — Slightly soft at stem; ripen in paper bag, refrigerate in plastic bag for three days.

Plum (phenolic compounds, lutien, zeathanthin, fiber) — Buy firm and ripen in paper bag three days.

Spinach (iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin A ) — Crisp, green leaves; store in plastic bag in refrigerator for three days.

Sweet Potato (vitamin A, beta-carotene) — Firm, dark, smooth; cellar temperature for one month or room temperature one week.

Tomatoes (lycopene, leutin, zeaxanthin, vitamin A) — Firm, plump, smooth skin; store in room temperature out of the sun as refrigeration ruins flavor and texture.

Watermelon (lycopene, potassium, vitamin C and A) — No cracks or soft spots; room temperature four to seven days or refrigerate for five days; once cut cover and refrigerate for three to four days.

Winter Squash (potassium, beta-carotene) — Hard, dull rinds; store unbagged in cool, dry area for several months, refrigerate covered for one week when cut.

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Monique Ryan, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN is the leading endurance sports nutritionist. Her nearly 30 years of professional experience working with Olympic (consultant to USAT and USA Cycling), elite and age group endurance athletes and professional sports teams make her one of the most experienced and qualified sports nutritionists in the U.S. Ryan is founder of Chicago-based Personal Nutrition Designs and the best-selling author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes (3rd edition, VeloPress) and three other sports nutrition books. PND provides detailed nutrition plans for triathletes across North America competing in all race distances, with programs at  Ryan is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.