How long should we keep food in our refrigerator?

Refrigeration, convenient methods to preserve food products

Refrigeration is generally one of the best and most convenient methods to preserve food products at home. It is the most common way of keeping leftovers, fruits, and vegetables, but what we do not usually analyze is that refrigerating food products can remove a big amount out of their total nutritional value.

Have you ever thought about how long you can preserve food in the refrigerator? Cooked food kept in the refrigerator should be eaten in 3 to 4 days.

When food is cooked, it should remain at room temperature no more than two hours before being refrigerated to decelerate bacteria growth. But once kept in the fridge, leftovers should be eaten up within three to four days since bacteria can continue to grow even at refrigeration.

Refrigeration uses the principle of low temperature to protect the food. The home refrigerator operates at a temperature of 4 to 7 °C. This temperature is minimal enough to decrease the rate of bacterial growth and biochemical reactions but not able to cease these entirely and hence result in spoilage and nutrients loss on long storage between 4 to 7 days for different foods.

On the other hand, for the short term storage below 4 days of food, refrigeration is the best method as it results in minimal damage to food and maintains its taste and nutritional value. The variations in cooked foods might be low due to their fewer bacterial load and the existence of natural preservatives like salt.

Thereafter, the possibility of food poisoning increases. If you think you won’t eat the food in three to four days, put it into the freezer to eat at a later date.

Food poisoning is prompted by harmful germs, such as bacteria in food. Because bacteria don’t change the taste, smell or look of the food, you can’t inform whether a food is dangerous to eat. So if you are in doubt about a food’s safety, it is best to put it out.

Thankfully, most cases of food poisoning can be avoided with proper cooking and food handling. To practice food safety, quickly refrigerate spoilable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Don’t let them stay more than two hours at room temperature or more than one hour at temperatures above 32 °C.

Uncooked foods including cold salads or sandwiches also should be eaten or refrigerated immediately. Your target is to cut down the time a food is in the danger zone between 4° and 60 °C when bacteria can quickly multiply.

When you are ready to eat leftovers, reheat them on the stove or in a microwave until the internal temperature reaches 74 °C.

Practically every food preparation process reduces the number of nutrients in food. Particularly, procedures that promote foods to high levels of heat, light, or oxygen lead to the greatest nutrient loss. Nutrients can also be rinsed out of foods by fluids that are introduced during a cooking process. For example, steaming a potato can bring about much of the potato’s B and C vitamins to move to the boiling water.

Coming from all these methods of food preparation and food preservation, freezing appears to the least damage. Water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the vitamin B-complex group decay the most during freezing.

Some fruits will do better kept in the refrigerator, and some can be kept at room temperature. Still others like apples and pears can be kept on the table until they are ripe, and then stashed in the refrigerator until you eat them. Not all of the fruits can be kept in the low humidity drawer of the refrigerator.

Most vegetables should be kept in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. There are a couple of vegetables that should be kept in the low-humidity drawer, or do better kept at room temperature.

All of the dairy and eggs should have a date on the package. The date on the package is the best estimation of how long this food will be good for. Fresh meats don’t keep very long in the refrigerator.

Here is how refrigerating food, such as fruits and vegetables, can affect its nutritional value:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, when frozen, experience various chemical changes, which can result in spoil and damage of the food items. For instance, fresh fruits contain important nutrients to lose their nutrition value, color, and flavor when stored in a refrigerator.
  • Refrigeration leads to discoloration of food items and loses its vitamin C content, which is important for our growth and development.
  • Another dangerous chemical change that takes place after refrigerating food items is the growth of rancid flavors, due to oxidation with air.
  • Refrigerating food can produce the growth of ice crystals, which can induce unfavorable changes to the nutritionary value of the food products.
  • Dehydration of frosty food can significantly reduce the quality of food and result in nutrition loss, especially in fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables.
  • In contrast to the popular idea, refrigerating food does not destroy the harmful bacteria present on fruits and vegetables. There is enough number of bacteria present in freezers, which further builds upon the food products kept and multiplies in numbers. This will cause the spoil of food products and a decrease in the nutritional content.

Refrigerating food can cause a serious loss in nutrients and vitamins. Therefore, to preserve the nutritional content of food products, you should avoid refrigerating them for longer periods of time and consume them as naturally as possible.

Tips to keep food fresh longer:

  • Keep fridge temperature at or below 40°F, and set the freezer to 0°F.
  • Don’t peel foods until you’re ready to eat them.
  • Keep leafy vegetables with humidity control set on high.
  • Keep fruits with humidity controls set on low.
  • Don’t keep meats, dairy, fruits, and vegetables in the same crisper.
  • Don’t place easily spoilable products in the fridge door, where the temp. Is warmer.
  • Keep leftovers in airtight containers.
  • Prevent overcrowding, as this can hinder cold air circulation and cause warm spots.



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