One of the 40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen is almonds—but do you think they refrigerate them? Believe it or not, after a certain point, it is a smart idea to keep them cool. Foods you previously thought were indestructible in room temperature environments are now proven to be more fragile than you thought. Check out which foods you need to move into the refrigerator, stat.
This dried fruit is best when kept in the refrigerator, and if you waltz into Whole Foods, that’s where you’ll find them stashed. Dates are not dehydrated to the extent that other dried fruits, like cranberries and apricots, are. They have a bit more moisture and need to be stored in a cool environment to preserve their flavor. It will not harm you to eat a date at room temperature, but their shelf life is 45 days. Unrefrigerated, they will progressively become drier and lose their distinctive flavor.
Eat This! Tip
Pop pitted dates into your morning bowl of oatmeal for some natural sweetness. Also, dates dipped in almond butter and drizzled with orange blossom honey and a dash of sea salt makes an absolutely irresistible (yet healthy) dessert!
2. Maple syrup
You better make room in the refrigerator for that jug of maple syrup you just cracked opened; the kitchen cabinet is no longer its home. Unlike honey, maple syrup can grow clumps of mold if left at room temperature upon opening. Pure maple syrup does not include any preservatives, which unfortunately makes it more prone to mold infestation. Seal that jar up and toss it in the icebox so you don’t ruin your flapjacks with gobs of sticky, black gunk.
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The healthy unsaturated fats in nuts can go rancid if left too long at room temperature. You will know a nut has gone bad when it goes from being crunchy and abundant in flavor to being chewy with a paint-like smell. Even worse, nuts lose their health benefits, one of which is to lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good kind (HDL). But they will remain nutrient-dense and edible 6 months past their “best by” date if stored in the refrigerator.
4. Homemade pumpkin pie
Pumpkin pie can spoil if not kept in a chilled area. A homemade pie, specifically, can cause foodborne illnesses—not something you want to be responsible for during family gatherings. The eggs and milk that go into these recipes are magnets for bacteria. Enjoy the pie at room temp if and only if it has been out of the oven for two hours. Once that time has lapsed, transfer the pie into the refrigerator.
Toss tortillas in the refrigerator, even if the expiration date is not for another week. Tortillas can last up to twice as long if you stow them away in a cool place. Grocery stores will keep packaged tortillas by other yogurt and packaged cheeses because the cool temperature actually doubles their shelf life.
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6. Ripe bananas
Unripe bananas are best kept out the refrigerator because the cold will inhibit the banana from ripening. When the banana is ripe and ready to eat, but you aren’t ready to eat it, plop it in the fridge in order to prevent spoilage. You may notice that the peel will get darker and maybe even black. Don’t let that scare you off from reaping the benefits of a ripe banana, because it’s most nutritious when it’s ripe.
You always see a bottle of ketchup neighboring the salt and pepper at a diner, which is fine if it only stays out for a maximum of one month. While its high acidity keeps most bacteria at bay, cool temps enable the condiment to sustain its sweet flavor and freshness.
8. Red wine
Sometimes, a glass of red wine is all you need to unwind after a hectic day at work. But one glass (okay, maybe two) will not deplete the whole bottle. Unfortunately, wine oxidizes very quickly and becomes stale if not stored correctly. But you can preserve the bottle in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days with a wine bottle stopper. After that, it will no longer be your saving grace after a hard-pressed day at the office. Watch our video on How to Make Opened Wine Last Longer for some expert tips.
9. Flax seed
Both chia seeds and ground flax seeds are loaded with alpha-linoleic acids (omega-3 fatty acids) that benefit brain health. Talk about getting your daily dose of brain food! In fact, when flax seeds are ground, they are even healthier for you. Grinding breaks the seeds up so that you can digest them easier and absorb more of the nutrients. But be careful; once they’re in their most nutritious state like this, they are more susceptible to spoiling and oxidizing. When they oxidize, their anti-inflammatory effects turn into pro-inflammatory agents and can even be toxic.
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10. Almond meal
It’s packed with protein and a wonderful substitute for white flour. But its freshness will dissipate after being exposed too long to room temperature, which wipes out the benefits of its abundant vitamin E.
Eat This! Tip
If you are looking for a sweet snack that won’t interfere with your weight loss plan, try making a fruit crumble. Mix a smidge of brown sugar—with an equally small portion of butter—into a cup of almond meal, until it becomes a paste. Then crumble it over your chopped fruit. Bake it until the crumbles become a crisp golden brown and viola, you have a tasty, guilt-free treat.
11. Jarred natural peanut butter
Natural peanut butter—and almond butter, for that matter—is more prone to spoiling if it’s been open for more than a month. It’s best to store it in the refrigerator immediately after opening because it protects those heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from becoming inactive.