The 10 Foods That Should not be Stored in the Refrigerator

Tomatoes are best stored in the kitchen and bread is in the freezer. The next time you have the urge to fill your refrigerator drawers with fresher foods, refer to this guide to make your food last longer and taste better.


When tomatoes are exposed to cool air, their chemical composition changes. This can make the flavor less vivid and become a less pleasant addition to your favorite lunch salad.

“Tomatoes are best stored in the kitchen because storing them in the refrigerator will accelerate chemical processes that will make tomatoes taste dull,” says Casey Hageman, MD. “If they are unripe, you can put them on the windowsill to ripen,” she adds.

According to a study published in October 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, low temperatures reduce the level of volatile compounds (chemicals responsible for flavor and aroma) in tomatoes.


Whole, unpeeled, raw onions should not be stored in the refrigerator: this is the case when storing food in the refrigerator can lead to it spoiling earlier.

“When exposed to low temperatures, the starch in onions turns into sugar, causing the onions to become soft or soggy,” says Jamie McDermott.

“Ideally, they should be stored in a cool, dry place away from light, such as a cupboard or drawer.”


You will get even more nutrients from whole, uncut melons if you store them on the countertop. “The cold air from the refrigerator can slow down the growth of their antioxidants,” says Jessica Shapiro, associate manager of health and nutrition at Montefiore Medical Center.

In a widely cited study, researchers examined watermelon stored for 14 days at three different temperatures, levels of the antioxidant lycopene increased by up to 40 percent and beta-carotene levels increased by up to 139 percent in watermelon stored at room temperature.

“Beta-carotene and lycopene are powerful antioxidants associated with numerous health benefits, such as cancer prevention and skin health,” says McDermott. These antioxidant levels did not change much when watermelons were stored at lower temperatures.


Your favorite coffee, whether ground or not, should not be stored in the refrigerator for better flavor.

“Humidity in the refrigerator can cause condensation, which is bad for the flavor of ground or whole bean coffee,” says Hageman. “Coffee should be stored in the pantry for better flavor.”


Cut herbs such as basil are best stored at room temperature.

“Refrigerating chopped basil will cause the delicate leaves to darken and discolor,” says McDermott. “The reaction that occurs, called oxidation, turns fruits and vegetables brown. An enzyme called polyphenol oxidase found in the cells is exposed to oxygen in the air and reacts with it.”

For best storage, place the basil stems in a tall jar of water and keep them out of the sun.


As with tomatoes, the chemical composition of potatoes actually changes when they are placed in the refrigerator.

“Low temperatures turn starch into sugar,” says Shapiro. “This will not only change the texture so that it becomes more grainy, but it will also make the potato a little worse for those trying to watch their blood sugar. A smaller portion can cause a higher spike in blood sugar.”

Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can also lead to the formation of a potentially dangerous chemical during cooking.

“The decomposition of sugars in potatoes can lead to the formation of a chemical called acrylamide when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures,” says McDermott. “Animal studies have shown that acrylamide is carcinogenic, and there is some concern that at high levels it can have the same effect in humans.”


Have you ever noticed that your refrigerated cucumbers don’t look the way you want them to after a few days? This is due to cold air damage.

“Storing cucumbers in the refrigerator for more than three days can lead to ‘cold injury’ due to the high water content. “This can lead to bruising, wet areas, and spoilage.” According to her, in general, cucumbers are best stored at room temperature in a well-ventilated area.


If you accidentally hide nutritious bananas in the fridge while unpacking groceries, prepare for an unpleasant sight, but don’t throw them away. “Bananas in the fridge will turn brown, but they will still taste good,” says Shapiro.

Bananas give off a gas that causes other fruits to naturally ripen, so be mindful of where you store them. “Whether it’s in the refrigerator or out of the refrigerator, you want to keep bananas away from other fruits, unless you want those fruits to ripen faster,” Shapiro adds.


It’s understandable if you can’t eat an entire loaf of bread in a few days, but think about how much you’ll eat so you can plan ahead with better storage strategies.

“Bread made with natural ingredients may start to mold on the counter after a few days, but if you put it in the fridge, it will dry the bread out,” says Shapiro. “In fact, if you have more bread than you’re going to eat in a couple of days, you should put it in the freezer.”

Take out a few pieces every few days and store the bread at room temperature in a bread box, she says.


According to McDermott, garlic, which is usually planted in the fall, prefers cold weather and therefore sprouts faster when stored in cold conditions.

“Fresh, whole garlic bulbs will last several months when stored at 15 to 18 degrees, but usually only a few weeks in the refrigerator,” says McDermott. “If you plan to use garlic over time, make sure it’s as fresh as possible at the time of purchase by looking for firm cloves, no sprouts, and no black spots.”

Store garlic in a ventilated area, such as in a mesh bag, and away from warm areas of the kitchen, such as stoves or sunny windows.

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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