September 28, 2017

Fresh or frozen: Both good options!

Most likely, I am not the first person to tell you that eating fruits and vegetables daily is good for your health.

Many of us head to the store to stock up, but we worry about purchasing fresh produce and not being able to eat it all before it starts to wilt or deteriorate. To prevent this from happening, it is important to plan ahead on how you will incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your daily meals and snacks.

If using fresh produce is a concern, you may consider using frozen fruits and vegetables. However, I have often been asked if frozen fruits and vegetables offer us similar nutrition benefits when compared to fresh ones.

In order to fully understand the pros and cons, it is important to first understand the process.

Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing are processed at their peak ripeness, usually when they are the most nutritious.

The first step in the vegetable-freezing process consists of blanching them in hot water or steam to kill bacteria and slow enzymatic food degradation. Blanching might cause some water-soluble ingredients like vitamins B and C to break down or leach out, but the ensuing flash-freeze allows the nutrients to remain in a relatively stable state.

Fruits do not undergo blanching because this affects their texture. Instead, they may be treated with ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) or added sugar to slow degradation. Typically, no chemicals are added to produce before freezing. Studies suggest that the extent of nutrient losses depends on the type of vegetable and the length of blanching.

On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables found in the aisles of supermarkets are picked before they are ripe. This might give them less time to achieve their full nutrient spectrum. In addition, this produce might travel long distances from the farms to the stores and then to the plates, where they are exposed to heat, light, and other environmental factors.

If you can’t decide between fresh and frozen produce, you may choose a mix of the two to get the most benefits. Frozen vegetables offer a convenient and cost-effective alternative to fresh options, especially for off-season varieties. Eat frozen fruits and vegetables soon after purchase because they will inevitably degrade over many months.

The alternative to frozen and purchased produce? Grow fruits and vegetables in your own garden if you can! This will provide you with the best nutrition, visual quality, and personal satisfaction.

Contributor: Nadia Borchardt, RD