Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Mind how long you keep food refrigerated


Despite the irregular power supply that has
become our lot as a country, the truth is that
refrigeration is still one of the simple ways we
preserve food, fruit and vegetables.
Whether as a working woman, stay-at-home
mom or self-employed, it’s absolutely impossible
to meet the family’s food needs without the
balancing act that refrigeration provides.
For very busy women who are always on the go,
it may take the form of cooking assorted stews
and other foods such as beans and jollof rice
that will last a week, and refrigerating them.
That way, whenever any member of the family
arrives home, all that needs to be done is to
take your portion and warm it up either in the
microwave or on an open stove.
Refrigeration allows us to have food in a jiffy
without the usual hassles that go with the
process of initial cooking. Again, it helps in
slowing down microbial activities and chemical
changes that would have resulted in foods
getting spoilt.
Any food can be refrigerated, as refrigeration
keeps foods fresh and also preserves, keeping
them away from air-bone food contaminants and
insects such as cockroaches, fruit flies and
houseflies.
According to Consultant Nutritionist, Dr. Simeon
Oladimeji, when you refrigerate foods, you are
able to store them for a long time, and the
process protects your food from microbes.
“Refrigeration keeps foods, vegetables and fruits
cool and thus protects them from heat and
direct sunlight.
“It prevents food from getting spoilt and also
protects them from insects and rodents. In fact,
freezing stops the multiplying of
microorganisms,” Oladimeji notes.
Again, the opportunity to freeze your foods
makes you to buy items in bulk when they are on
sale and thus enable you to save money.
Despite all these great advantages of food
refrigeration, though, there are many downsides
to it, too, especially when you keep your foods,
fruits and vegetables for too long in the freezer
or refrigerator.
For one, the nutritionist warns, foods that stay
too long in the refrigerator or chest freezer hardly
taste quite as good as when fresh. “This is
because, in the case of certain foods such as
beef, fish, vegetables or fruit, except you’re sure
of their freshness at the time of purchase, you
may not bank too much on their preservation
through refrigeration,” Oladimeji says.
He adds, “When freezing meat, ice crystals form
and cause the cells of the meat to break down
and result in loss of moisture.”
He notes that more often than not, even when
we buy foods freshly from the market, we make
the mistake of driving around with them —
sometimes from the market to the office where
we allow the foods to sit in car booth for
extended period of time.
He says we should be mindful of the fact that
once removed from their natural habitat, foods
start degrading, whether cooked or not. So, even
if you later refrigerate the foods, much damage
has been done to them already and in a matter
of a day or two, you will see the result.
He says the same goes for foods bought in the
supermarket where the temperature in the food
aisle is usually cooler than it is in any other area
of the supermarket.
“Immediately you bring out the food from the
supermarket fridge or freezer, it begins to thaw.
And as you continue to shop around, the process
continues at rapid stage. By the time you make
the payment at the check-out counter and hit
the road, the temperature in the car continues
where the outside temperature stopped.
“So, nutrition-wise, you may not get real value
for the food by time you want to eat it,” the
consultant counsels.
Apart from the effects of warm temperature, he
says even in the case of home-made foods such
as beans and rice, for instance, they may
become dehydrated, especially if they are not
properly covered or sealed.

To guard against this, Oladimeji advises that you
use tight-lid containers or ziplock bags that
prevent foods from getting too much freezer
exposure.
The nutritionist also notes that when foods stay
too long in the refrigerator or freezer, the taste is
likely to be affected; and, in the case of cooked
foods, they may become soggy and unable to
hold water.
Worse still, Oladimeji says, sometimes you bring
out an ice cream from the freezer and what you
notice is that it has picked up the flavours of
other things that were stacked with it in the
freezer! To prevent this, store foods according to
their groups.
As we all know, vegetables are the worst hit
when it comes to disadvantages associated with
food refrigeration. If vegetable absorbs too much
moisture from the refrigerator, for instance, it can
become unattractive and limp.
“Consequently, they can lose flavour, colour,
vitamins and minerals; and they can become
tough,” the nutritionist says.
As for dairy products such as milk, cheese and
yoghurt, careless handling may expose you to
serious food-borne pathogens such as listeria,
salmonella and E. coli, all of which are quite
deadly and could kill.
Oladimeji also says despite refrigeration, some
microorganisms, such as psychrophiles, which
make foods to spoil easily, may still thrive,
especially where the fridge is opened too
frequently, or where the electricity supply is not
able to keep the freezer or fridge cool enough for
what they are supposed to do
He advises against freezing cooked foods for two
long because, he says, the sodium (salt)
concentration tends to concentrate after
sometime; and that’s why you may be surprised
that your food is suddenly saltier than it was
when you first stored it.
He also counsels against storing raw and cooked
or ready-to-eat foods together, saying the raw
foods can contaminate the ready-to-eat foods
especially.
He notes that fridges or freezers come with
compartments for fruits, vegetables and other
food items, saying using them as appropriate
and under the right temperature will preserve
food.
The bottom line: Don’t shop for too much food.
One week’s supply is okay at a time.

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