Picking the fruit that’s in season is a great start, it means the food has the best possible levels of nutrients.
The next step is to eat it as soon as possible, so as many those nutrients stay in the food.
Vegetable gardens versus supermarkets
The fantasy of having your own vegetable garden is to go out to the garden, pick some lettuce and tomatoes and put them into the salad for that night's dinner. After all, fresh is best.
In the supermarket, things are a bit different. The instinct is to pick fruit and vegetables that aren't quite ripe yet. After all, most of the time they're going to be in the fridge or on the bench for a few days, so they'll need time to ripen.
The idea behind this is a logical one. It's a bit like buying children's shoes too big, so they'll have time to grow into them.
But like most things in life (children's feet included!) it's not quite that simple.
Don't always follow your produce instinct
You see, not all fruit ripens after it's been picked.
Bananas and tomatoes? They will change color and ripen after you get them home.
Oranges and pineapples? They won't ripen at home. The moment you get them (whether it's from the tree or the supermarket) is the best it's going to get.
So what makes the difference?
Ethylene - the ripening hormone
Ethylene is a hormone, sometimes called the "ripening hormone". It's a colorless, odorless gas that is naturally produced by plants.
As the fruit ripens, ethylene causes fruit to turn softer and sweeter, leaves to droop on plants, and seeds or buds to sprout.
Add the word "climacteric" to your shopping list
Fruits and vegetables are classified as "climacteric" or "non-climacteric" depending on their response to ethylene.
What this means for your shopping list is that some produce ripens after it's been picked, while others don't. So don't choose what to put in your trolley assuming it will be "better" when you're ready to eat it in a few days' time. Because that's not always the case.
The good news is, we have a list below to help you.
But first, a bit of detail on the differences.
The theory – Climacteric foods emit a burst of ethylene as they start to ripen, and after ripening peaks, the production of ethylene gas drops off significantly. This means climacteric foods have a fast period of ripening during which they soften and develop flavor and smell.
Why it matters –Climacteric fruits will carry on ripening after they are harvested, so you should leave them at room temperature until they ripen to a stage where you are happy to eat them.
In fact, that's usually a good idea because climacteric food is often picked before it is ready.
There's a good reason for this - they are harvested while still firm and unripe (think crunchy peaches and green, starchy bananas) so they don't get damaged by transport and storage. Some people (often those who struggle to eat their 7+ a day) think that is the way it is supposed to be.
But if you leave it at room temperature for a few days, the fruit gets more flavor and sweetness.
The theory - Non-climacteric plants, such as leafy and root vegetables, citrus, cherries, and berries, produce very little ethylene and do not carry on and get riper after they're picked. Instead, they get softer and rot as they age.
Why it matters - Non-climacteric food is the best it will be when you buy it. Your berries still a little green in the container? The pineapple hard? These foods just age without ripening and won't taste better after sitting on your counter, so you need to buy them in the condition you want to eat them.
Add our ripening guide to your shopping list
The table below compares climacteric fruits (ones that can ripen after they are picked) with non-climacteric fruits (which need to be attached to the plant to ripen)  .
Know what is (and isn't) in your food
Knowing more about the food you eat is a good step to health. And bringing it home is another. But for most people, there's still a nutrient gap in their diets.
- Good intentions don't always make good habits - Having the healthiest food in the world is no use if you don't eat it. About 40% of food in the US is thrown out, meaning all those good intentions in the shopping basket go to waste .
- Food never gets the optimum nutrients - Fruit and vegetables have the most nutrients when they are allowed to ripen naturally, something that modern food sources don't offer. Sure, climacteric fruit and vegetables ripen off the vine, but there's good evidence that produce ripened on the vine is better for you .
- Food can lose nutrients before eating - Even if you pick the best food, it still takes time to get to the table. Vegetables lose between 15 and 77 percent of their vitamin C within a week of harvest, meaning you might not be getting what you paid for .
This doesn't mean you should give up on fresh fruit and vegetables - whether it's 5+, 7+ or more, there are good reasons to make them part of a healthy diet. And the more you learn about what is (and what isn't) in your food, the better decisions you can make.
Many people who think something is missing in their diet turn to supplements as an easy way to give their body what it's missing. But like the food you eat, supplements don't always deliver what you think they are going to. You need to take the same care selecting supplements that you do picking out what's for dinner.
Bridge your nutrient gap
At Xtend-Life, we realise healthy eating, isn't always easy. That's why our core products like our Total Balance nutrient system and Omega 3 Fish Oil contain what you need to help bridge the nutrient gap throughout the year.
And if you need something extra, we also have products such as Immu-Stay, which can help your immune system get a boost when the seasons change and you need it the most.
Your daily regime for optimal health
- Targeted support for brain, heart & joint health
- Boost immunity
- Defy the signs of aging
- Assist energy levels, strength & overall health
Leave a comment!
We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Do you know the difference between climacteric and non-climacteric? Does it change the way you buy and store food? Do you eat everything you bring home from the market?