01/29/2013 04:35 EST

Foods In Fridge: Should You Keep These 15 Items Cold?


'Refrigerate after opening.'We've all seen this label, but how many of us actually follow it? And more importantly — does it make a difference to our health? According to some experts, the key to storing foods in the fridge depends on the ingredients.

"Many foods have preservatives added to prevent them from going bad quickly," says Rich Ralph, a registered holistic nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. "I recommend real foods with fewer ingredients. However, this often means these foods will have a shorter shelf life or those which must be refrigerated."

This method, however, doesn't apply to all foods. A bowl of fresh fruit on the table might last a week or so, depending on the quantity and type of fruit (apples and bananas can last longer than grapes, for example). Ralph also says whether or not fruits are left in the fridge or on the counter can be a matter of taste — some people just don't like eating cold fruit, and others can't stand those at room temperature.

But does this mean refrigerated foods automatically last longer? Not quite. Food storage differs for each type of food. Eggs can last about three weeks in the fridge, while steaks in the freezer can last about six to 12 months, according to an infographic from And if anything, the smell and look of foods that have gone bad is the number one indicator to chuck them.

For safety reasons, Ralph also recommends following the 'best-before' dates on food products and throwing out anything that has mould, a strange odour or is discoloured.

According to Health Canada, the 'best before' date refers to the freshness and shelf life of unopened products that have a lifespan of 90 days or less. However, this date is only meant to indicate how long food will retain its normal flavour and texture. Once opened, the 'best-before' date doesn't apply, so consumers should be following the 'keep refrigerated' label or similar instructions.

What do you keep in the fridge? Is it simply for taste or are you following instructions? Let us know in the comments below:

LOOK: Do these 15 foods need to be refrigerated?

Should You Keep These Items In The Fridge?

Peanut Butter Or Jams:


WHY? Depending on the type of peanut butter or jam you buy, it can be stored either in the fridge or out. "Peanut butters, for example, often have preservatives that allow them to be stored in the cupboard even after opening," says Rich Ralph, registered holistic nutritionist from Vancouver B.C. Ralph recommends finding a peanut butter that includes organic peanuts — this type, however, should be kept in the fridge.

Coffee Beans:


WHY? Unless you plan to roast meat with them or enjoy fish-flavoured coffee, you should never store coffee in the fridge or freezer. Coffee often absorbs flavours from surrounding foods, according to



WHY? Unless chopped, onions are best kept in cupboards, Ralph says — in a fridge, the odour of an onion can latch onto other foods. "Be careful not to keep them with potatoes, though, as onions can sometimes stimulate potatoes to start sprouting," he notes.



WHY? If you want your bread to last longer, keep it in the fridge. "Bread is often kept in the fridge or freezer in the summer, and on the counter in the winter. This is simply due to the speed at which bacteria can grow at higher temperatures and humidity," Ralph says.

Soy Sauce:


WHY? If you don't cook with soy sauce every day, the best option is to keep it in the fridge, according to Soy sauce contains small amounts of alcohol which can taste flat and stale if left out for a long period of time.

Bananas And Other Fruits:


WHY? In small amounts, bananas, apples and other fruits don't need to be kept in the fridge. "Most fruit can be kept out of the fridge, but some people often prefer a cool apple to a warm one. This will really depend on preference," Ralph says. And to avoid waste, never keep a bag of fruit on the counter if you don't plan to eat it right away — fruit in a cooler environment will keep for longer.

Whole-Wheat Flour:


WHY? If you want your whole-wheat flour to last, the experts at recommend keeping it in the fridge. Whole-wheat flour contains wheat germs that can spoil if kept out for a long period of time. Tip: Use a plastic bag or a tight container, as whole-wheat flour can pick up odours quite quickly. All-purpose flour will be fine in a cupboard.


IN OR OUT: Depends on the kind

WHY? Salted butter, for example, can last for longer outside the fridge than unsalted butter, Ralph says. "Typically with butter, I recommend keeping a small container out of the fridge with enough butter to last a few days. This way you always have soft butter on hand."


IN OR OUT: In (but can be kept out for a few hours)

WHY? You probably would never store your yogurt cups in your cupboards, but depending on the type of yogurt you buy (pasteurized vs. nonpasteurized), you are able to keep yogurt out on the counter for several hours, according to The only exception? Unpasteurized yogurt must be consumed within an hour after opening.

Salad Dressing:


WHY? Cold dressing may not be your preferred taste, but Ralph says salad dressings with oils should always be kept in the fridge to avoid spoiling.



WHY? In some countries, eggs will be fine stored outside the fridge, thanks to their protective shells. But in North America, eggs sold in stores often go through a washing process that strips away natural preservatives to prevent contamination of salmonella, Ralph says. If you're buying eggs from a local farmer, make sure you ask about the farmer's practices. "Farmers who sell eggs at the local farmers market are typically very meticulous to ensure their chickens are in clean environments with very low possibility of salmonella. But it's always good to ask," he says. Any washing of eggs means they should be refrigerated.



WHY? Similar to salad dressings, condiments like ketchup and mustard should also be kept in the fridge because of their oil content. "Oils are very susceptible to damage from heat, light and oxygen. For this reason, they should always be kept in cool and dark places," he says.


IN OR OUT: Depends on the kind

WHY? If you only use dry herbs for cooking, you don't need to refrigerate them. Ralph says dried herbs last longer in cool or dark places, so both in the fridge or cupboard works. Fresh herbs, on the other hand, should always be kept in the fridge.



WHY? If you want your walnuts, peanuts or almonds to last longer, store them in the fridge, according to Many nuts that contain oil can become rancid if they're not stored properly.



WHY? Keeping your lemons and limes in a plastic bag in the fridge can help them last four times longer, according The Kitchn.