How fast does fresh produce degrade when handled properly?

I just read that if fresh produce sits on the shelf for two to three days it has no nutritional value. Not sure what to make of that. After going to the farmers market, getting a weeks supply of vegetables and fruit, will my produce at the end of the week have nutritional value anymore?

6769b1c2 0d39 4097 bd4a 387966a6a1e4  image


Benny May 9, 2012
Many restaurant chefs, unless they specifically market their product as "healthy", really dont try their hardest to retain nutritional value. The focus is instead on "refining" the product in unique ways to create a texture and flavor that makes your taste buds dance, and is visually pleasing.

Its difficult to gauge the exact rate of nutrient loss any fresh produce goes through.with time. I think that the produce that looks the freshest, and has been cooked the least will provide the most nutrient value.
ChefOno May 7, 2012

Well, hmmm… You expressed a concern and 5 people immediately responded trying to help with polite, well considered responses. The fact all 5 of us have said, in different words and from different perspectives, that you're asking a question that has no definitive answer should tell you something. I'm sorry you found the experience unpleasant.

Truly S. May 7, 2012
A question with no definitive answer eh?
well, what is that supposed to mean./... what does it is supposed to tell me ... that i asked a dumb qquestion... ?
I definitely am feely attacked by you. Please leave me alone. You seem condescending and I do not like it at all. and one person thought they needed to tell me to thank my farmers. YEs, This is not fun at all.
Truly S. May 8, 2012
I just realized you are a guy and regualrly partake in alcohol as in your profile says the most valuable thing in your kitchen is the wine glass in your hand. Hmmm... that says alot./You are kinda mean. And btw, the question I asked is a very intelligent one and it most certainly has an answer. The deal is why go through alot of trouble to prepare and eat something if it has lost half its nutrition...Just because it looks good and smells good does not mean that it has retained most or half of the nutrients..
ChefOno May 8, 2012

Ha! Thank you for all that -- best laugh I've had all day!

Truly S. May 7, 2012
well please forgive me for having an analytical inquiring mind.
Kristen W. May 7, 2012
If you think about it from an evolutionary perspective, it seems to me that we (meaning we humans) have probably evolved an intrinsic sense of what food is fresh enough to retain nutritive value for us (I.e., those of our ancestors who could not make this distinction instinctively were probably less likely to survive and procreate). An oversimplification perhaps, but I still count it as an argument in favor of "if it looks good, eat it".
Truly S. May 7, 2012
i just wondered ... so really forgive me for my inquiry. It looks as though everyone thinks I am too ... something or another.... so ... geez, i was just wondering how fast the nutrition actually disappears from food. This has been an unpleasant experience communicating with this community. I will find my way out of here.
Truly S. May 7, 2012
yes, very good. Thank you for feedback. Yes, proper food handling, storage are already considered as stated in my question. And I do consider the breakdown of nutrients when cooking. I once worked for a chef that after manipulating the food in so many ways to get it to new heights and design, that I do believe their were no nutrients left. I watched him and thought wow... what is the point in all that. Their couldn't possibly be any nutritive quality left. Since, i have always kept how cooking (different techniques over others) degrades the nutritional value in consideration. I just wondered if their was any ratio to consider in nutritional loss... such as 1 day 100,5 2day half that and so on... but I guess like you said if it looks and good and taste good.. eat it.
ChefOno May 7, 2012

The problem with assigning numbers like that is you'd have to track each nutrient value for each food. It's far easier to simply say "fresher = better".


Voted the Best Reply!

ChefOno May 7, 2012

Petitbleu pretty much took the words I was preparing right off my keyboard but here they are anyway:

The Internet is full of kooks who believe all sorts of crazy things and it's only going to get worse. After reading about this so-called doctor, I happened across a blog claiming you shouldn't wash organic fruit because it washes off the vitamins. Not only is the writer clueless about biology and incapable of logical reasoning (what effect would rain have if that were true?), she's ignorant about where botulism spores hang out and how air currents and flies are capable of transmitting all sorts of nastiness no matter how desperately you want to believe it ain't so.

All produce loses some nutritional value after harvest due to oxidization, enzymatic action and other factors. Different fruits and vegetables lose different nutrients at different rates so it's difficult to answer this question with specifics.

I think it's best to approach the subject from a management perspective, in other words, how can you best preserve the nutritional value of what you purchase rather than worrying about how much might be lost between field and table. If you start down that path, you'd have to also concern yourself with how cooking degrades nutritional value. It does of course, but few people could be talked into eating all their food raw. Any loss is more than made up with improvements in flavor and texture or else we wouldn't do it. Everything in life is a tradeoff.

If it tastes good, eat it.
SKK May 6, 2012
Have had the privilege of spending time in locations around the world where food is the issue, not how fresh, Just being able to feed children. And always what supports is purchasing from women growers.

This is such a great question. It illuminates so much. Questions around the whole supply management issue, big agriculture - so much to learn.

Once again, thank you for the question.
Truly S. May 6, 2012
Thank you for your reply and kindness.
Reiney May 6, 2012
Agreed with comments about freshness/seasonality/taste being at the forefront of my concern. I think kale (or any other vegetable) is healthy 1 day out of the ground or 7 days out of the ground, so long as it's still in good shape, and resist any attempt to make nutrition more complicated than that.
Truly S. May 6, 2012
very well, thank you.
SKK May 6, 2012
Possibly there is an answer in shifting the question from how long does it take for fresh produce to deteriorate to how to support growers in a way to buy the freshest produce.

If you buy organic, if you buy in season, you have the best.

Purchasing at your farmers market implies you are getting the best. I say thank the growers you are purchasing from.

Truly S. May 6, 2012
yes thank you. Don't worry, I am grateful to my farmers and I am grateful for my food always. I am grateful to have access to good food. I know it is a privelege.
Truly S. May 6, 2012
Oh and yes, of course, I do thank them personally >>>> EVERY Single time
Truly S. May 6, 2012
I have grown my own forever, until this year. I moved recently. The farmers at our markets ask plenty of money for the food also. They get doubly appreciated verbally and monetarily. I hope that meets your expectations of me.
petitbleu May 6, 2012
More than anything, I worry about flavor degrading in produce over time. Of course, things are at their nutritional and gustatory peak right out of the ground, but that's just unattainable for most of us. I can't speak to how rapidly nutrients degrade in produce. I would imagine that it differs depending on what kind of produce (beets versus kale, for instance) you're dealing with, and also what nutrients you're specifically referring to. Nutrition science has a lot of grey areas. I go by freshness. I buy fresh produce and try to eat it all within the week. Beyond that, I simply think there's a lot of speculation regarding "nutrients."
ChefOno May 6, 2012

This is going to sound flippant but, seriously, those guys are dead, I wouldn’t take any advice from that "doctor".

This is a little out of date as it was written before Yauch eventually succumbed to cancer but it might help balance whatever you read:

Truly S. May 6, 2012
Ok, I see. I read it. i appreciate that ..... yet my question remains.
Anyway, his statement still had me considering how long does different produce last with nutrition. Or another way to ask this is ... What is the rate of degradation in proportion to nutrition. I do know to keep things in their own groups and separated etc.
ChefOno May 6, 2012

I don't know where you picked up that "information" but it certainly wasn't from a nutritionist or a food scientist. Relax, it's all good.

Truly S. May 6, 2012
ok thank you. I was reading from the Doctor who treated Steve Jobs and recently Adam Yach. He talks about preventing cancer and recovering through food. He talks about nutrition,.. etc.
Recommended by Food52