What to Look for in Produce for Juices and Smoothies - dummies

What to Look for in Produce for Juices and Smoothies

By Pat Crocker

If you’re focused on your health, it stands to reason that you want to start with the finest produce so that you get the highest-quality vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Don’t compromise. Get the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find. Here’s how:

  • Shop for organic produce. There’s a reason why certified organic food production is growing all over the world. Actually, there are several ­reasons, and they have to do with the health of the planet and the health of people. There is concrete scientific evidence that organic farming results in

    • Healthier soil

    • Less soil erosion

    • Cleaner waterways

    • Reduction in human and wildlife exposure to persistent toxic chemicals

    • Less energy usage than conventional farming — 30 percent to 50 percent less

    • A healthy population of birds and insects in and around the farm

    Fresh organic produce yields more nutrients because you don’t need to peel it. Many of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables are concentrated in and just below the peel or skin, but that’s exactly where chemical pesticides and herbicides are lurking.

    Although North American countries have banned the use of certain toxic pesticides (such as DDT), those chemicals are still being produced and exported to food-producing countries and coming back to us in fruits and vegetables.

    If non-organic is your only option, at least try to avoid the following “dirty dozen” — these fruits and vegetables have the highest concentrations of pesticides: apples, bell peppers, blueberries (domestic, not wild), celery, grapes (especially if imported), kale/collard greens, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, and strawberries.

    If you have no choice but to purchase non-organic produce, always peel it if you want to reduce pesticide exposure.

  • Shop for produce that’s in season. The term in season means that, where you live, the crops grown locally are being harvested right now. Because of this, plenty of those fruits or vegetables are available, at the lowest prices, and they’re fresher than imports. If they’re grown locally, fruits and vegetables will have ripened naturally, on the vine or on the tree, and their nutrients will be higher than produce that’s picked before it’s ripe and transported in refrigerated crates.

  • Plan to use what’s in season. This means using, among other things, tomatoes and peaches in the summer, apples and cranberries in the fall, winter pears and cabbage in the winter, and leafy greens and asparagus in the spring. Unless you live in tropical areas, winter strawberries and tomatoes aren’t the best choice for flavor, nutrients, or price. If you want to use strawberries in winter, plan to pick your own at a local farm in the summer and freeze them for winter smoothies.

  • Get it from the person who grows it. Many farmers sell right on the premises in farm gate sales, because it saves them time, energy, and transportation costs. If you buy directly from the farmer, the fruits and vegetables will be fresh picked and at their peak. They will have ripened the way nature intended, and they’ll be bursting with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients because they matured properly.

    If you can’t make a trip to a nearby farm (or if farms are too far from where you live), you may be able to buy from the farmers at your local farmers’ market.

    Don’t be fooled by “fake” farmers at the farmers’ market. Some ­markets are very strict about only inviting the person who raises the fruits or ­vegetables; others allow middlemen (people who just buy and sell food, as opposed to growing it). You can’t miss the fake farmers — their ­produce comes in boxes labeled “produce of” followed by the name of some ­faraway place.

  • Grow your own. Growing your own vegetables isn’t all that hard, and it can be done in very small spaces. You can grow vegetables in containers on a balcony or on very small patches of land.

  • Know how to tell if it’s fresh. A light touch on peaches, plums, avocadoes, and melons can easily help gauge their ripeness. Most fruit smells sweet and fragrant when ripe, so go ahead and give it a sniff and a gentle caress. Be aware of the difference between fresh, in-season specials and the discount bin, which is food that is past its prime. Produce from the discount bin may be tempting due to its price, but it’ll be past its peak, and many of the nutrients will have been lost.