health

Are pre-cut vegetables doing our bodies more harm than good?

38 Comments
By Andrew Miller

With a wealth of health information at our fingertips, most of us try to take good care of our bodies, getting our five fruit and veg a day and enjoying coffee and alcohol in moderation. It’s not always easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle while holding down a job or taking care of a family, though, so foodstuffs like pre-cut vegetables or ready-made side dishes often find their way into our fridges. But despite carrying a healthy image, are the ready-to-eat vegetables and ready meals found at your local convenience store really as nutritional as they’re thought to be?

If Japanese food specialist Kiyotaka Minami’s latest book “The 19 Food Habits that are Bad for the Body” is to be believed, these pre-packed time-saving gems could actually be doing our bodies more harm than good.

According to Minami, while they may look good sitting on the shelf or on our plates, the truth of the matter is that many pre-cut vegetables and ready-to-eat vegetable dishes are often coated in chemicals, meaning that they have very little nutritional benefit.

The expert foodie also argues that supposedly “freshly cut” pre-packed vegetables are something that we should be especially wary of.

According to the food specialist, what gives the vegetables such a look of freshness is the chemicals they are soaked in during the manufacturing process. The majority of vegetables lose their nutritional value way before making it onto the supermarket shelves.

I’m sure many of you are curious about what goes on in the manufacturing process to make these so-called “healthy” vegetables end up the way they do. In his book, Minami elaborates on the manufacturing process in detail, first describing how, at the factory, cut vegetables are put into a pool of sodium hypochlorite to be disinfected. They are soaked in the same chemical numerous times so as to remove any possible bacteria. At this point, giving the vegetables a quick sniff is enough to realize that they can’t be good for us, so in order to get rid of the chemical smell they are then rinsed thoroughly in water.

Minami comments: “The majority of nutrition found inside vegetables is water soluble. Therefore, a large proportion of the good stuff gets lost during the disinfection and water rinsing process. At best, what’s left is simply fiber.”

If these claims are anything to go by, the health conscious looking for a break from home cooking might find themselves left out in the cold when turning to super markets and convenience stores’ supposedly healthier meals and side dishes for a quick solution. Perhaps it’s time we started buying our vegetables fresh out of the ground, soil and all, if we hope to get anything like the amount of nutrients that doctors and dietitians keep telling us we should?

Source: Itai News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Veggie Sushi Will Win Over All Your Senses in the End -- School Lunch in Japan -- Fill yourself up with this bento lunch that weighs in at a hefty 1kg

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38 Comments
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"How you get so big eating food of this kind?" -- Yoda

Ok, I can understand someone objecting to a double quarter pounder with cheese as being healthy, but fresh cut vegetables?

They may not have 'all' the nutrients they had when first picked, but its not like the veggies are unhealthy. How do you feed a world full of 7 Billion people and counting and not leverage modern tech to 'pre-package' food so it last longer and can be delivered to the people.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

We never buy them. I cut the vegetable shapes, size and thickness according to the recipe I'm making.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Interesting article that got me to do some quick research.

Sodium hypochlorite (commonly known as bleach) is used to clean more than vegetables. It's used in almost all food preparation for both the tools used and the food - chicken, pork, beef & fish.

As for:

The majority of nutrition found inside vegetables is water soluble. Therefore, a large proportion of the good stuff gets lost during the disinfection and water rinsing process. At best, what's left is simply fiber.

Not hardly 'the majority.' Some nutrients only appear after cooking or cleaning. Some are fat soluble which means your body has to break them down before they are of use.

Anyway, while fresh vegetables are better than cut, cut vegetables are better than no vegetables. And for busy moms who have to slap a dinner together for dad and the kiddies, quick is good.

Besides, who says the vegies available in your average Japanese supermarket haven't been bleached and chemicaled regardless of being cut or not?

The spread of plant factories has been encouraged by the Japanese government amid concerns about the use of chemicals in vegetables.

Links:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1190392/Is-future-food-Japanese-plant-factories-churn-immaculate-vegetables-24-hours-day.html#ixzz2Wntsfj26

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/how-to-keep-your-veggies-vitamin-packed

http://www.powellfab.com/technical_information/sodium_hypochlorite/what_is.aspx

17 ( +18 / -2 )

Damaging my health? I doubt it...

Damaging my wallet? For sure!

I never buy them simply because they're insanely expensive compared to the minute it takes me to cut them myself. Other JT readers, do a fun exercise, on a scrap of paper figure out your monthly salary, divide it down to per minute, then see how much it costs to spend 5 minutes cutting veggies. The compare the cost of fresh veggies to cut ones. For me it was a no-brainer.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Two views on cleansing chlorine and baby carrots:

Chlorine BAD: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/07/28/Chlorine-in-Your-Baby-Carrots.aspx

However, just like in water, it is not the chlorine you have to worry about. When chlorine interacts with organic matter it will form dangerous disinfection byproducts (DBPs) which are many thousands of times more toxic than chlorine. Research has now confirmed that the byproducts formed when chlorine reacts with organic material in water are some of the most potent toxins out there. Among them are trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). These disinfection byproducts are believed to be over 10,000 times more toxic than chlorine.

Chlorine good: <http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/babycarrot.html >

= skip the cute baby (cut down, trimmed, chlorinated) carrots and peel the ugly full-size (non-chloridated) ones. Or get the cute ones (organic) with citrox.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I once met a person whose job it was to test imported frozen foods from China. She actually said she preferred to eat the frozen Chinese vegetables to the fresh Japanese ones in the supermarket, because whereas the imported stuff is thoroughly tested, Japanese vegies are laced with chemicals. Japanese have very strict regulations for imported food, but the locally produced stuff pretty much goes unchecked, and farmers will saturate their crops with pesticide so their food looks good.

There is more to food than just nutrition. Preferably I'd like to eat something that doesn't give me cancer.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Dispite the article's tone, I don't think it's an issue of contemplating precut vs. raw vegetables. Precut vegetables is the only window busy / slovenly people have as an opportunity to consume fresh fruit and vegetables.

I find it hard to believe that there is only fiber left in the vegetables. plants and their components are made up of cells. It's impossible to believe that the processing can rob each and every cell of it's nutrition and for it to remain in its original raw state.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

I prefer fresh vegetables but the following statement is rubbish:

"are often coated in chemicals, meaning that they have very little nutritional benefit."

Vegetables are made from chemicals.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

One reason to buy the precut is the portion sizes. In most of the grocery stores in our neighborhood you have to buy veggies in packs: three carrots per pack, five onions, 6 green peppers and so on. It's a little tough for us to find individually sold veggies so when I have to buy the ones in packs it's often more than what we wanted and they end up going to waste.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'd like to see the research to back up Kiyotaka Minami’s assertions. Is the book well annotated? Does he cite research? Or is he assuming everyone will believe "chemicals are bad"?

8 ( +9 / -1 )

"coffee in moderation". DRINK UP! it is a MYTH that coffee is bad for your stomach or your heart. Coffee has TONS of anti oxidants MORE than green tea. and caffeine is GREAT for you! The average person can have 600mg of caffeine a day and not worry at all. That is 6 CUPS of strong black coffee worth. It is the cream and sugar that bad for you.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Dammit, those prepacked veggies are a lifesaver (time saver?) for me. 100-150 yen for vegetables that are ready to stirfry. Add the sliced pork (dont tell me thats bad too), fry it up with some shio-kosho and perhaps a dash of oyster sauce and you have a stirfry done in 5 minutes max.

Pity the rice takes 40 minutes to cook here :-/

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm a vegetarian.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

Certainly something to think about. I was recently back home & nearly every fridge I opened had bags of baby carrots & we chowed down on a couple big veggie platter things during the day but its still better than reaching for chips, chocolate etc

I grow a lot of my veggies here in Japan & buy most of the rest from michi no eki's so its all pretty good. But it is true that farmers here can & some do go heavy on the spraying & there is virtually NO TESTING done.

One of the worst things to eat I heard from my farmer friends are fruits in particular nashi which I have been told can be sprayed around 20times prior to being bought, that's scary so don't eat them anymore unless someone offers some then I will have a couple pieces & eat anything else or feign being full

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

It's not the chemicals that leech out nutrients...nutrient content is lost every day a veggie is on the shelf and not in your body. The answer for busy people? Frozen veggies and fruits. Unless you're eating freshly picked farm produce, the frozen stuff will always pack more nutritional punch.

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401250/Are-Frozen-Vegetables-Healthy.html

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Try the Steam-Fresh (steam in the bag) type of frozen vegetables. = guaranteed not to be "soggy/limp" unless bag thaws out previously. Steam all frozen veggies

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My two cats have a far healthier diet than me!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

many pre-cut vegetables and ready-to-eat vegetable dishes are often coated in chemicals, meaning that they have very little nutritional benefit

B does not follow from A. Arsenic-laced tomatoes, for example, still have nutritional benefit, it's just that they have more toxic detriment than nutritional benefit. The fact is that most people are oversupplied with nutrients, not undersupplied.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Reading newspaper articles is hazardous to your health. According to the above article we should all be in the graves already.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Is it really so difficult to chop up some vegetables?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I am a big fan of modern progress. And that's really wonderful to have some frozen produce, cans, etc... But this article is right even if badly written with some accuracies. The problem is right. You have to select, know what is good and what is bad.

Steam-Fresh (steam in the bag

And eat bag's phtalates ? Want not.

to 'pre-package' food so it last longer and can be delivered to the people.

You bought the marketing story... In this case, it usually last shorter time, makes more wastes, costs more to store and transport... and therefore can sold more expensive. The most common is shred cabbage, sold refrigerated 100 yen a cup, you have 48 hours to eat it... In comparison, a whole cabbage (that you can shred with a basic shredder) is sold 100 yen not refrigerated. The yield is about 30 cups of shredded. If it has still the leaves around (seen on some markets), you can store it at room temperature up to 6 months in Winter weather, and even now over, one week in your veggie pantr, and a month in your fridge. Look at your nearby kombini, super, and you will see they increasingly propose cut fruits. Isn't it obvious that a cut grapefruit, or apple, or banana, or pineapple, or strawberry... does not keep longer, is not transported more easily ? Then if you cut the fruits at home, you notice they don't last. They are perfect, just cut, and after 4 hours in a bento, that's OK but no longer so fresh. But the shop manages to make them look just cut. The secrets are : storage in very cool places + chemical sprays + throwing away 30% as soon as appearance declines. So more waste, more cost, taste is spoiled and you intake more chemicals. You will tell me it's more convenient ? Sometimes it is, but often, I don't see the progress. Between that whole banana and apple, and the package versions, what is more convenient for a consumer ? You have a problem eating a banana ? For the food industry, it's great as surely, they sell you the pack of cut fruits 250 yen for a volume of 1/2 a banana, but the whole bananas they have to sell you several for 100 yen. They make more profit.

"are often coated in chemicals, " Vegetables are made from chemicals.

Yes, everything is made of chemicals... Then you don't mind if I add a teaspoon of laundry bleach or anti-gokiburi borax in your cup of coffee ? Roughly, that's what you get in your pre-cut salad.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

We buy munouyaku - no chemicals, we hope.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cos,

you can store it (cabbage) at room temperature up to 6 months in Winter weather

You live in a barn?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Pity the article, which could have been so informative, missed a rather more basic point about pre-cut fruit and veg; that when cut they activate enzymes which destroy their own nutrients. For that reason it is best to store fruit & veg in their skins and only cut them just before cooking or eating. By buying pre-cut veg you are just losing out on the goodness you could benefit from.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Kittychosen,

By buying pre-cut veg you are just losing out on the goodness you could benefit from.

Very true. Not a lot of nutrition there.

But isn't this what they use in fast food restaurants?

Pre cut and frozen vegetables and fruit?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

you can store it (cabbage) at room temperature up to 6 months in Winter weather

This is true = you throw some blankets over them in a cold garage/storage etc. (don't want them to freeze). A "root cellar" is even better and you can replant carrots and keep them growing (slowly).

Steam-Fresh (steam in the bag) -And eat bag's phtalates ? -Want not. :(

Steamfresh bags are 100% microwave oven safe and are specially designed from plastics meeting FDA regulations and do not contain PVC, Phthalate, BPA, PFOA or melamine.

I tell people they should not be eating those "steam bags" all the time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You live in a barn?

A mansion. Same difference, no heating. I have a food pantry that is 12~15 degrees (trunk room). And I don't need to stock much usually since I buy and they sell year round. But nice people from inaka sometimes ship me produce and they don't seem to have takkyubins smaller than 10 kg departing from there. Then you can do sauerkraut and kimchi.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

All that is left is fiber? I would take the fiber and supplements. The Japanese diet is lacking in fiber - what with the white rice.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As someone who can hardly even justify buying food that isn't already cooked, packaged veggies are a godsend. I do prefer the flash-frozen variety, but if I have to go out and dig up my own vegetables just to eat healthy then I'll be a monkey's uncle!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If Sodium Hypochlorite is all that the producers use on the precut vegetables, I am not worried. NaClO is basically just an oxidizer, using oxygen to kill bugs. The rest is table salt. I don´t see the big deal there. I would be much more worried if they used a cocktail of clever organic chemicals for the purpose.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

sillygirl,

The Japanese diet is lacking in fiber - what with the white rice.

Really?

I guess it depends which Japanese food you are choosing.

In Okinawa, a lot of people eat brown rice, or black rice, which is really tasty. They also eat sweet potatoes which are high in fibre and then there's the hoshi daikon which is readily available all over Japan that is really rich in fibre.

And konnyaku and hijiki.

There's quite a lot of high fibre foods in Japan, come to think of it.

Unfortunately the younger people in Okinawa tend to eat the American fast food crap and I'm sure they are the ones who buy the pre-cut veggies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most farmers/families where I live serve and eat the white stuff. Those of us who are intrepid find the brown rice etc. but then you find yourself making that for yourself and the other for everyone else. There are a few restaurants that serve the high fiber stuff but they are few and far between. Such is life in the belly-button of Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The pre-cut bags are more expensive, but not harmful for you. I am no scientist, but I get the feeling that Kiyotaka Minami is not either. And this reeks of pseudo science. Any book entitled, "19 Food Habits..." is almost certainly going to be nonsense.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cos: A mansion. Same difference, no heating.

You live in a "mansion" with no heating? Surely if you can afford to live in a huge house you can afford heat. ; )

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ambrosia, I didn't say we couldn't afford it. It's just that my 500+ room mates (perks of living in huge) are less interested in getting central heating (reversible in water cooling) than in 24/24 light up of empty corridors, daily watering of the street, psychedelic alarms, how- to-gomi-art posters... No problem, I don't need to take a torch when I go fetching veggies from the stock.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

BertieWooster: In Okinawa, a lot of people eat brown rice, or black rice, which is really tasty. They also eat sweet potatoes which are high in fibre and then there's the hoshi daikon which is readily available all over Japan that is really rich in fibre.

I agree that brown and black rice are tasty but Okinawans account for just over 1% of the total Japanese population, not exactly a fair representation of Japanese dietary habits. Go to a grocery store on the mainland and you'll see people, mainly housewives and many of them not young, loading up their baskets with processed and already prepared foods. And in the majority of restaurants, it's difficult if not impossible to get brown or black rice.

Unfortunately the younger people in Okinawa tend to eat the American fast food crap and I'm sure they are the ones who buy the pre-cut veggies.

Or the Japanese fast food crap such as tonkatsu, tempura, Mos Burger, Freshness Burger, melon pan, karage curry, and so on. Though America gets the majority of blame for it, they certainly don't have the market cornered on unhealthy fast food food. Just because it doesn't come from McDonald's doesn't mean it's good for you.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ambrosia,

I see what you are saying.

When I came here nearly 40 years ago, lunch was usually at a "teishoku-yasan," (set lunch restaurant). It's the equivalent of "meat and two veg" in London at about the same time. Even the tonkatsu was better then. At least the cabbage wasn't pre-cut!

It amazes me how they can just discard wholesome tasty food and replace it with something that without some kind of sauce, would taste like expanded polystyrene.

I went into a bar years ago in Tokyo where they had Ebisu on tap, (the original one - before they went bankrupt and sold out to Sapporo) and there were several people drinking Budweiser out of cans!

I asked one of them why. She said because it looks cool!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

BertieWooster: I asked one of them why. She said because it looks cool!

For most people it comes down to choice. In general, Americans who eat crap do so because they choose to do so. Japanese who eat crap do so because they choose to do so. I get awfully tired of the "blame America" argument which at the same time seems to say that Americans are just lazy and greedy. I'm not saying that you're saying that, but that is the slippery slope of that argument. And, I'm not talking about urban poor who have neither the means nor the ability to get to stores which carry fresh vegetables and fruits. I'm talking about people who could just as easily make a salad, cut some fruit, have some whole grains but opt for crap instead, be they Japanese, Americans, French or whatever.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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