Do Pre-Packaged Greens Retain All Those Great Nutrients?
Packaged and pre-washed veggies save us tons of time and sometimes even money. Who doesn’t love a ready-to-go salad or bag of veggies that you can quickly cook up as a delicious and healthy side dish?
You would think that just eating vegetables would be enough to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, but the more you learn about food safety and quality, the more confusing it can all become.
Most of us know that fresh vegetables are better than frozen or canned, that raw is healthier than cooked, and organic is generally preferred. But do we really know the details? Why is one better than the other? How much are we losing in terms of quality and nutrients when we use canned vegetables or even pre-packaged bags of veggies?
Mario G. Ferruzzi, a professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at North Carolina State University, states that many things affect nutrient content – from the extent and type of processing to even just the nature of the product itself.
Bagged veggies tend to be pre-washed, which is one of the selling points, but washing can cause damage to plant tissues and expose them to oxygen that is dissolved into the water used for washing. The problem with this is that you may lose water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamin folate due to their sensitivity to oxygen.
Even a fresh bunch of veggies is washed to a certain extent but bagged vegetables that are triple washed can create oxidation reactions, surface damage, and opportunities for leeching.
Ferruzzi claims that most companies use methods that try to minimize the loss of quality and that many nutrients are left even after being washed. Iron and calcium, for example, remain quite stable in spinach and losses tend to occur more often when heat is applied in the process of canning rather than through washing.
Even simply washing and chopping veggies can cause some damage to plant cells by potentially releasing enzymes and creating more room for oxidation to occur. But at the same time, chopping can also increase the amount of polyphenols, a beneficial compound, which can decrease the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.
So while a fresh bag of vegetables may be better in terms of quality and nutrient retention, bagged veggies have shown positive results overall and can be a great choice depending on how soon you plan to eat them. The convenience is quite attractive as well!