03/09/2017 10:22 EST | Updated 03/09/2017 10:22 EST

Is Your Fridge Making You Sick?

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The hand of a young man is opening a freezer door

A refrigerator is one of those things around the house that we don't take a lot of time thinking about just like a T.V, a microwave or my overdue bills.

It's a relatively recent invention but is now one we pretty much can't live without. It greatly extends the life of our food, leads to less spoilage and allows us to buy in greater quantities.

If you think you just shove food in and there's no specific function to the fridge let me show you how they are to be optimally used and a few common mistakes that may be making you sick.

Fridges Back In The Day

Artificial refrigeration actually began back in the mid-1750's or right around the time Larry King graduated high school. In 1834 crude refrigeration units started to be developed and in 1913 the first fridges for home use were created. It was Frigidaire that introduced self-contained units and the introduction of freon allowed the market to be expanded into the 1930's.

Combination units including freezers were now commonplace in homes and it started to change the dynamic of food consumption. New, and now popular, frozen meals were becoming more mass consumed when originally considered a luxury item.

How Your Fridge Actually Works

The compressor on the fridge constricts refrigerant vapor which raises its pressure and pushes it into the coils on the outside of the fridge These coils are also known as those things that get caught on the door when trying to move one.

The hot gas meets the cooler room temperature of the kitchen and is now a liquid. The liquid now cools down as it flows through the coils in the freezer and fridge. This liquid refrigerant is what takes the heat away from inside the fridge by absorbing it and leaving the fridge cool. The refrigerant now turns back into a gas where it heads on back to the compressor and the whole cycle starts again.

Not Just A Box Of Cold

Your fridge is not just a giant box of cold, it is actually designed to distribute coldness throughout itself. Picture a figure 8 of air circulation which is moving throughout the fridge. This gives it some specific areas of coldness which are meant for certain foods and items.

The coldest parts are at the back and up high, this is great for things like milk and dairy which benefit from colder temperatures. Do you wonder why the vegetable drawers are down low? This is because the bottom of the fridge is the warmer or less cool area. Fresh fruit and veg need to be kept cold but not too cold. This is why you see produce in grocery stores out in the open in slightly cool units whereas dairy is in full refrigeration units.

Watch Out For Overfilling Your Fridge

Having an overly full fridge is a very nice problem to have but it's not ideal for the design and distribution of the cold throughout it. A fridge that is too packed doesn't allow for its cold air to circulate properly and these can lead to an increase in warm spots. If you're noticing some foods spoiling before their "best by date" it may be from being in one of these warm spots. Keep the food spread out evenly in your fridge and try to not have it packed too much.

Close The Door You're Letting All The Cold Out!

An overly full fridge can lead to warm spots and the fridge door can act in the same way. You want to avoid keeping things on the door that can spoil quickly, mainly dairy. The door is constantly opened and closed exposing it to the warm air of the room. If you're like me standing there like a zombie staring blindly for something to eat at 2 a.m those items on the door have spent too much time in the warm air. Over the course of the day, this surprisingly adds up.

The door should be opened and closed pretty quick not only to save energy but to preserve your food longer. If you have to spend two minutes standing there deciding if you're going to risk it on this two-week old guac the answer is probably no.

Keeping Yourself Healthy

The air circulation is why you want to get rid of spoiled or rotting food as soon as you see it. That cold air distribution can transfer mold from food to all parts of the fridge. Rotting food can potentially contaminate foods all over as it's distributed throughout your fridge. This is why you need to regularly check the state of your produce and chuck out anything the second you see it going moldy. This also applies to spilled or old residue that you find on shelves or in the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Give you fridge a good clean regularly to avoid this possible circulation of mold.

A Few Food Storage Tips

Keep produce in plastic shopping bags in the fridge and squeeze all the air out of the bag and roll it up. This will extend the life of your produce as the exposure to oxygen is what can lead to its quick breakdown. Here's another article for the Huffington Post I've written on a few more food storage tips to help you out.

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