Are Pre-Packaged Salads Healthy?

Remember the old saying “fresh is always the best”. There is no comparison between fresh produce and pre-packaged salads in the supermarket which might have been there for long. The problem most people have is that they are always short on time and look for a quick food replacement that requires less preparation. If you closely follow the news, there have been reports of food poisoning multiple times that were traced back to contaminated spinach or leafy greens. This means that you need to be cautious about these pre-packaged salads since they might not be as healthy as you think. Now, here are the reasons why these salads aren’t healthy.

They Lack the Good Stuff

Most of the prepackaged salads might be two weeks old. Their taste has changed with time and also most of the health benefits they contain have been lost even before we eat them. It’s better to pick lettuce right from the store, rinse and dry them yourself.

You should also rip it into bite-sized pieces before storing to increase the antioxidant activity. If possible, consume it within two days of storing or you can eat them immediately you buy them from the store. Either way, you’re sure you aren’t eating lettuces that have been sitting in some shelves for over two weeks.

Contain Added Chemicals

Each year, lettuce, spinach, and collard greens all scored top 16 for chemical load in the EWG’s annual ranking. There is an alarming reality that most of these greens producers are using chlorinated water, a solution of a greater concentration than the local swimming pool, to wash their produce. The good thing is that these prepackaged greens endure the chemicals, but if, as the consumer, you’re sensitive to chemicals, then you need to be worried. You’re already getting chlorine in municipal water which is too much that can lead to irritating effect to the eyes, nose as well as the stomach. Hence you shouldn’t add more chlorine to what you already have.

The Salad Might Be Dirty

Even though we’re against too much washing, the greens need to be washed anyway. If the producers aren’t keen with washing, it’s estimated that there is a possibility of the bacteria adhering and remaining attached to the leaf surface. Consequently, the bacteria continue to live, grow, spread and contaminate other leaves. The number of outbreaks related to prepackaged lettuce bacteria contamination are on the rise. The outbreak strain of E. coli is the deadliest among all with the federal authorities urging people to be keen when purchasing greens.

Wilting in Your Presence

Frozen prepackaged salads can stay fresh for five days. However, this appearance is sometimes deceiving since once you’ve picked the leafy greens from the garden they begin to lose their nutritional value. That’s why it’s important to consume them directly from the farm or within two days. Immediately you open the salad bag, the leaves will wilt quickly indicating just how much nutrition remains. You might think that eating a few prepackaged salads a week is healthy, however, there isn’t anything of nutritional value you’re consuming.

Are Packed with Gases

The glowing look of those prepackaged salads isn’t just natural. These salads are packaged with a mixture of gases called modified atmosphere to help them look fresh for a week or so. If you look at the back of the packet, you will see “packaged in a protective atmosphere.” This might sound catchy and it helps the leaves look great but it doesn’t protect the nutrients. But in other foods like apples and carrots, nutrients can stay intact for months. Others lose by each hour after being picked.

Conclusion

To protect yourself from disease contamination from pre-packaged salads, buy whole, unprocessed vegetables and wash them thoroughly to reduce the risk of poisoning. Also, practice good food handling such as washing and drying your hands thoroughly before food preparation, appropriate food storage and separation of raw food from cooked food. Some research suggests that washing prepackaged salads can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. Hence if you’re buying bagged salads you need to eat them as they are. Which leaves you with the option of buying fresh greens from local stores. You can also opt to grow your own leafy greens. Choose a good variety that matches where you are going to grow them. By doing so, you enjoy really fresh salad leaves at the comfort of your home. Plus, you don’t need to refrigerate them since you only pick the required amount of greens.

Alternatively, you can opt for frozen peas or fresh broccoli if you can’t grow greens and these two have more nutrition per gram than prepackaged salads.

All images by Pixabay

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