Shopping Smart for Your Fruits & Veggies

By Ayah Murad, Clinical Dietician

Do we know where our fruits and vegetables come from? Fruits and vegetables provide many essential vitamins and minerals. but is our local produce in Jordan safe and beneficial?

I studied the difference between consuming fruit and vegetables for adolescents aged between 13 to 17 in Jordan and if the standards of living affect the pattern of fruit and vegetables consumption in comparison to adolescence in the United Kingdom (UK). My findings showed a similarity in the consumption of fruit and vegetables for the same

age group. However, our teens get less physical activity and are exposed to illnesses in higher frequencies than the same category of adolescence in the UK. This can be due to the poor nutritional content and toxins in our local food sources.

As Jordan is one of the most water-deficit countries in the world the quality of water available for our crops is deteriorating. An example is the contamination of the Zarqa River from industrial discharge and illegal dumping of sewage, the illegal extraction of concentrated waste-water by farmers for use on crops, and the runoff of fertilizer back into the river from these farms.  These alarming findings highlight the need to address water quality in our crops, especially for fruits and vegetables. Jordan exports a small volume of high quality, higher-priced fruits and vegetables production to European and Middle Eastern markets that are not available to the local market.

Are the types of fruits and vegetables we consume locally healthy?

In our local market, plenty of imported fruits and vegetables pass the regulations and specifications of food safety, regardless if they are organically cropped or genetically modified. This is not 100 per cent safe as genetic engineering is relatively new and there is not enough data to prove its safety, leaving us with the limited option of all-natural organic choices that are quite costly and not affordable for most Jordanians.

Growing your own herbs

Having a small home garden or pots for essential vegetable sources can be life-saving. You can plant mint, rocket, thyme and parsley as they are very rich in antioxidants and can help you reduce toxins in your body at minimal cost.

The colour of your fruits and vegetables matter!

Whatever the source of fruits and vegetables you buy, remember that the plant can indicate whether it’s healthy or not. Dark deep green and deep orange coloured vegetables tend to be rich in many nutrients. For example, tomatoes that are deep red and sweet in flavour are higher in potassium while the lighter red to green sour tomatoes are higher is sodium and toxins. Deep orange core sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotenes and pectin while white cored ones are only rich in pectin with no additional benefits. The same goes for the deep green leaves which are more yellowish than deep green; this means that they do not contain either choline folic acid or beta carotene and these nutrients are essential for building your immune system.

Quick tips

  • To assure better nutrient content, buy seasonal fruits and vegetables for better health and savings
  • Whole fruits have more fibre than fruit juice and contain less sugar, so if you like fruit juice, try making your own and don’t throw the waste but use it as a natural fertilizer for your potted home plants
  • Leaving the skin or the peel and eating the  vegetable and fruit whenever possible to boosts fibre content
  • Eating at least three meatless meals each week using dried bean lentils and legume is advisable. There are also plenty of vegetable sources that are loaded with protein such as asparagus and mushroom
  • Avoiding canned food unless necessary. Try to choose organic unsalted and unsweetened choices and avoid any artificial sugars such as aspartame due to its carcinogenicity
  • Avoiding  grilling fruits and vegetables as this depletes most of the essential vitamins. Boiling could cause a leakage of some minerals and vitamins so blanch them rather than boil them. Maintaining the colour of vegetables and fruits when boiling is a key to avoid over cooking
  • A minimum serving of two fresh vegetables (½ cup or 120ml each of leafy vegetables) daily and three fruits (size of a fist) are important to maintain micronutrient intake
  • Fruited yoghurts tend to be higher in calories than plain yoghurt. So, it’s better to mix your plain yoghurt with fresh fruits and benefit from the good probiotic uses of this combination
  • Regular potatoes are rich in vitamin C and are considered one of the high carbohydrate rich vegetables. So treat them the same as white rice. Freekeh (green wheat), burghul (cracked wheat) or quinoa are great alternatives to rice or potato