Losing Nutrients


Are We Getting the Full Nutritional Value of Eating Our Fruits and Vegetables?


We are told from childhood on to eat our fruits and vegetables. They are healthy for us you know!

In magazines, books, TV, Twitter and any place doctors and dieticians congregate we are told how nutrient rich and healthy fruits and vegetables are for us. Even here at MTTD I often mention that some fruit or veggie is good for you or has lots of vitamin A or E or something.

Have you noticed?  There seems to be fruit and vegetable inflation going on or something. When I was young the “experts” said to eat three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Then it went up to five. Then six. Now it is at nine.

But I digress. Back to nutrients.

The fruits and vegetables I eat I eat because they taste delicious. I like them. I never paid that much attention to the specifics before.

Now that I am a blogger I pay more attention to this kind of information. And I began to wonder.  How much of the nutrients in a particular fruit or vegetable do I actually really get?

It seems, not so much.

How To Get Full Nutritional Benefits

To get the full benefit of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables you would have to pick them at peak ripeness, wash, and eat them very soon after picking.

For most of us those days are over. The Industrial Revolution changed all that. And there is no turning back.

Moving on………

How Are Nutrients Lost?

Picking Before Fully Ripe

Picking fruits and vegetables before they are fully ripe prevents the vitamins and minerals in them from fully developing.  So that is the first place nutrients are lost.

Even if picked at or near full ripeness once the fruits and vegetables are picked they begin to lose nutrients immediately.

Many if not most of the fruits and vegetables in grocery stores today have been picked before they were fully ripe.

Length of Time Traveling to Store and In-Home

Then the longer it takes to get the fruits and vegetables to the grocery store shelves and the longer they sit on the grocery store shelf and then in your refrigerator after you buy them the more nutrients are lost.

Cutting Fruits and Vegetables

Yes. Just cutting them. Just preparing fruits and vegetables to eat starts the loss of more nutrients. Plants perceive cutting as an attack on them and they go into defensive mode releasing enzymes that destroy nutrients.


Cooking fruits or vegetables in water or liquids allows nutrients to leach out into the water. Over cooking the vegetables results in even more loss of nutrients.


Juicing is the ultimate in cutting up fruits and vegetables and many nutrients are lost as well. Within 24 hours of juicing most nutrients are lost.

Not All Is Lost

There are ways to get the most nutrients from your fruits and vegetables.

Chief and first among them is to buy fruits and vegetables grown as close to where you live as possible. For most of us this will be during the spring and summer and at Farmer’s Markets. The down side of this is much higher cost.

In off season buy frozen or canned. Often times the plants that freeze and can fruits and vegetables are near the farms that grow them. Therefore they are preserved near their peak. Frozen is the best as canned sometimes lose nutrients in the process of canning. Exceptions to this are canned tomatoes and pumpkin.

Delay cutting the fruits or vegetables until ready to use if you can. In addition to the extra cost this is another reason I tend not to buy pre cut veggies at the grocery store.

The two exceptions to the cutting and losing nutrients are garlic and onions.

Cooking and Cleaning Methods

In general any cooking method or processe that expose foods to high levels of heat, light, and/or oxygen cause the greatest nutrient loss

Some cooking methods are better than others for preserving nutrients. Generally, the rule of thumb is the less cooking time the more nutrients are preserved.

However, it is more complicated that this. Cooking enhances some nutrients while it may degrade others.

The longer you wash, soak, and/or cook fruits and vegetables in water the more nutrients are lost.

The more water used to cook the fruits or vegetables the more nutrients are lost.

Boiling tends to cause vegetables to lose more nutrients than other cooking methods.

Generally, the less cooking the more nutrients are preserved. Methods such as stir-frying, sautéing, and steaming, even microwaving preserves the most nutrients.

Regular readers here know that directions in many of my veggie recipes say, “cook till crisp-tender.” That is because one, I think the veggies taste better, but two, more nutrients survive the cooking process.

Raw Vegetables

This option may not be the answer either if the fruits and vegetables were picked before peak and/or if they spent a lot of time in transit. Second consideration in raw is chewing method and length. See this article for more information on this topic: Raw Vegetables May Not Always Be Best.


Juicing also causes the loss of many nutrients. Many nutrients are in the skin and pulp which is either discarded (skin) or cut up so much that nutrients are lost in the process.

The Skins

By the way, many times the most nutrients are in the skin of the fruit or vegetable, which we tend to peel off and discard. Or we wash and scrub so hard during cleaning we lose them. Potatoes are a prime example. Most of the nutrients are in the skin. Soo when possible do not peel and throw away the skins.

What Should I Eat?

Does any of this mean or suggest we should not eat fruits and vegetables? I don’t think so. As I said, I eat food because I love how it tastes. It pleasures me. I still believe that if I eat what I like  in moderation and add as many colors into my diet as I can I will eat healthy.

Featured Recipe        Green Beans with Bacon Onion Dressing

Today’s recipe is deliciousness and simplicity wrapped up in one neat bundle.

And, since I cook the beans in the microwave I preserve a bit more of the nutrients.

The best way to do this is by using a microwavable steamer. Mine is a corning ware steamer and was made expressly to fit inside corning ware dishes. It is at least 15 years old. I do not know if they are even available any longer.

However, I did an internet search this morning (“microwavable vegetable steamer”) and all sorts of steamers popped up. There are fancy one and some smaller ones. The least expensive I could find was $4.50, which is about what I paid for mine.

You could also use a conventional steamer that fits in a pot and that you cook on the stove top like the one pictured below.

This is what you will need to serve 4 people:

1- 1½ pounds of fresh green beans

6 slices of bacon

1 small onion or shallot

Salt and pepper to taste

Here is what you do:

Slice the bacon into a medium dice.

Dice the onion.

When the bacon is just begining to cook  and you see a bit of grease in the skillet  ………….

……..then add the onion to the bacon and sauté until the bacon is crisp.

While the bacon onion mixture is cooking  quickly wash the beans. Dry them off a bit by wrapping in a towel and patting dry.

Slice off the ends of the beans.

Check the bacon and onions to see how they are doing. Looking good, but I still want a little crisper.

Place the beans in a microwavable steamer in a microwavable dish with a bit of water in the bottom…….

…….and microwave covered for 6-9 minutes till crisp-tender or to taste.

NOTE: If you do not have a microwavable steamer then use as little water as possible to cook covered for 6-9 minutes or to taste. Or steam on the stove in a traditional steamer. [See 2nd picture above the recipe.]

The bacon onion mixture is just perfect now.

Using tongs place the steamed beans on a serving plate.  

Pour the bacon  onion mixture over the beans. Do not drain the grease from the bacon onion mixture. That is the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with any entrée.

Bon appétit!!!


1 lb fresh green beans                      $1.29

6 slices of bacon                              $2.10

1 small onion or shallot                     $0.17  

Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $3.56
Cost per serving = $0.89

Quote of the Day

A leader is a dealer in hope.

Napoleon Bonaparte


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3 comments to Losing Nutrients

  • I need to speak to the boss because my fancy dancy blog watch program has your blog listed as not updated so I haven’t been catching all the new posts. Must be something in the date format he needs to fix. There are several sitting at the bottom of the list that have been updated but it’s not catching them. Most of them work so it’s got to be a tiny glitchy thing.

    About these veggies. I remember growing up in Maine when we grew our own in the garden they tasted so much better than what we can buy in the supermarket today. Sometimes even the farmer’s market stuff is pretty ordinary. I think it’s because they’re growing varieties that last longer rather than those that taste best. They want to ship them all over the world so long lasting is what they strive for. I do understand that for people who are starving, long lasting is important but it’s time we all said, “enough” to the factory farming. We need to be supporting people who enrich their soil naturally to increase the nutrients we’re eating. We need to stop eating meat and chicken filled with antibiotics too.

    I shall step off my soapbox now and toddle on home. 🙂 Hugs!

  • […] studies that have produced similar findings to negate that criticism. And as we know from my post, Losing Nutrients, it does not take much time for fresh vegetables to begin losing nutrients […]