Optimizing vitamin content of fruits and vegetables

Optimizing vitamin content of fruits and vegetables

It’s a well-known fact that fruits and vegetables pack a vitamin punch. However, many different factors come into play when it comes to vitamin content. Here are some tips for optimizing the vitamin content of fruits and vegetables!

Freshness is key

The vitamin content of a fruit or vegetable depends on:

  • where it’s grown
  • the weather
  • when it’s harvested.

Once picked, their vitamin content begins to deplete. This rate of depletion is mainly affected by:

  • transportation time
  • time spent on the supermarket shelf
  • storage time and conditions at home, etc.

When it comes to produce, the fresher the better. So, for a solid dose of vitamins and flavour, opting for those that are in season is the way to go.

Storage drawers

Although we have no control over how fruits and vegetables are stored before they get to the supermarket, we do when we bring them home! Many fruits and vegetables are best kept in the refrigerator (raspberries, lettuce, citrus), whereas others are best kept at room temperature (bananas, tomatoes, mangoes).

The latter are referred to as climacteric because they produce ethylene, which causes them to ripen even after they’ve been harvested.

Whereas some fruits and vegetables can be stored for a long time (apples, oranges, potatoes), others need to be eaten as quickly as possible after they’ve been picked or purchased (lettuce, asparagus, berries, apricots).

However, even if you end up with limp, brown fruits and vegetables, that’s no reason to throw them out! Cream soups and sauces are just a few ways you can use older produce.

What about frozen?

Fruits and vegetables that are harvested when fully ripe and immediately frozen are a good option in terms of nutritional value because freezing helps preserve their vitamin content.

In Quebec, our climate does not allow us to eat locally-sourced fruits and vegetables year-round, so the frozen option is a very good one.

Preparation, cooking and cleaning


Since some vitamins are sensitive to light and oxygen, only cut fruits and vegetables (into large pieces) right before eating them. Obviously, cutting up vegetables for lunch the next day isn’t a major issue: the overall nutritional value will still be beneficial!

This also applies to sliced fruits and vegetables sold at the supermarket; yes, they will have lost some vitamin content (especially vitamin C and folic acid, which are the most fragile), but there is still plenty left over.


‘Tis better to rinse fruits and vegetables than to let them soak in water. The reason for this is that some vitamins are water soluble (dissolve in water). It’s also better to clean vegetables by brushing them rather than peeling them.

Fruit and vegetable peels contain high levels of vitamins, minerals and fibres. Eating the peel is always a good idea (apple, pear, cucumber, potato, eggplant, etc.).


It’s great to store fruits and vegetables in optimal conditions, but if we boil them for too long, they quickly lose their value. Some vitamins are water soluble and will end up in the broth rather than in your stomach.

Other nutrients are also heat sensitive.

Therefore, cooking in little or no water is better than submerging them in boiling water for too long. Steaming or stir-frying in a pan or wok, baking in the oven or boiling in small amounts of water is the best way to make sure vegetables stay crunchy and healthy.

7 to 10 portions a day

As you can see, there are lots of ways to maximize the vitamin content in fruits and vegetables.

That being said, adults should eat 7 to 10 portions of fruits and vegetables per day, as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide.

Following this recommendation will ensure you get enough vitamins and reap the benefits of a fresh, delicious and colourful diet!

Fruit and Vegetable Conservation Table

Is fruit conservation a headache for you? Use this table as a guide to make sure you get the most out of your produce.

Fresh Fruit Conservation* and Storage Guide

Fruit Room temperature Refrigerator (4 ˚C) Freezer (-18 ˚C)
Apricot Until ripe1 1 week 1 year
Citrus (all) 1 week 1-3 weeks 6 months (juice and zest)
Pineapple 1-2 days 3-5 days 4-6 months
Avocado Until ripe 3-4 days 4-6 months
Banana Until ripe 1-2 days 4-6 months
Blueberries  2 3-5 days 1 year
Cranberries 1-2 weeks 1 year
Cherries 3-5 days 1 year
Strawberries 2-3 days 1 year
Raspberries 1-2 days 1 year
Kiwis Until ripe 1-2 weeks
Mangoes Until ripe 1-2 weeks 1 year
Melons (all) Until ripe 3-5 days 8-12 months
Blackberries 2-3 days 1 year
Nectarines Until ripe 3-5 days 1 year
Papayas Until ripe 1 week 1 year
Apples (August to January) Until ripe Up to 6 months 1 year
Apples (February to July) Until ripe 2-3 weeks 1 year
Peaches Until ripe 3-5 days 1 year
Pears Until ripe 3-5 days 1 year
Plums Until ripe 3-5 days 1 year
Grapes 5 days 1 year
Rhubarb 5 days 1 year
 Not recommended

* Conservation dates vary depending on ripeness and general condition when purchased.

1 When ripe, refrigerate to extend conservation.

2 Fragile, so keep in the refrigerator or eat them immediately.

Fresh Vegetable Conservation and Storage Guide

Vegetables Room temperature Refrigerator (4 ˚C) Freezer (-18 ˚C)
Garlic A few weeks 2 months
Artichokes 1 week 6-8 months
Asparagus 2-3 days 1 year
Eggplants 1 week 6-8 months
Beets 3-4 weeks 1 year (cooked)
Broccoli 5 days 1 year
Carrot 3 months 1 year
Celery 2 weeks 8-12 months
Mushrooms 5 days 1 year
Cabbage 2-3 weeks 1 year
Cauliflower 1 week 1 year
Brussel sprouts 1 week 1 year
Cucumbers 1 week
Winter squash A few weeks 1 year
Zucchinis 1 week 1 year
Chicory 3-4 days
Spinach 4-5 days 1 year
Bean sprouts 3-4 days
Fresh herbs 4 days 1 year
Yellow and green beans 5-6 days 1 year
Lettuce (all) 1 week
Corn on the cob 2 days 1 year
Onion 1 day 3-4 weeks
Cold room
3-6 months
Green onions 1 week 1 year
Okra 3-5 days 1 year
Parsnip 2-3 weeks 1 year
Leek 2 weeks 1 year
Peas, Lima beans 3-5 days 1 year
Sweet peas 2 days 1 year
Peppers 1 week 1 year
Potatoes 1-2 weeks 2-6 months
Cold room
Radishes 1-2 weeks
Rutabaga 1 week 3 weeks 1 year
Tomatoes Until ripe 1 week 1 year
 Not recommended