As a nutrition major I think that it was ingrained in our little heads to always say that fresh produce was best, but considering the way produce is picked and the journey it takes to finally get to your grocery store you may be surprised that frozen vegetables are sometimes a better option. We do about half and half at our house, the fresh produce we do have is typically what is in season.
Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables
Dana Yarn, RDLD
It is recommended that we eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Preferably we should stick to a ratio of three servings of vegetables to one serving of fruit, which is 6 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit per day. Americans typically only consume one-third of the recommended daily intake. As customers of Service Foods we are lucky to have a stash of frozen vegetables and in some case fruit in our freezer. But, how does frozen produce compare to fresh or canned?
During certain seasons, fresh produce is limited—or expensive—in much of the country, which forces many of us to turn to canned or frozen options. Canned vegetables tend to lose a lot of nutrients during the canning process and the inside of the cans are lined with harmful BPA (research has shown that BPA is also a hormone disruptor that contributes to obesity), frozen vegetables may be even healthier than some of the fresh produce. The only exception to that statement is if you have your own garden in your back yard or you get your produce from a local farm. Produce picked for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when they are also peaking in nutrient content.
The first step of freezing vegetables is blanching them in hot water or steam to kill bacteria and arrest the action of food-degrading enzymes this causes some water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and the B vitamins to break down or leach out which decreases the nutrient content. The subsequent flash-freeze locks the vegetables in an optimal nutrient-rich state.
The “fresh” fruits and vegetables destined to be shipped to the fresh-produce section in your neighborhood market around the country typically are picked before they are ripe, which gives them less time to develop a full profile of vitamins and minerals. Visible signs of ripening may still occur, but these vegetables will never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine as nature intended. In addition to being picked early, the long haul from farm to the plate, fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to lots of heat and light, which destroy some nutrients, especially delicate vitamins like C and the B vitamin thiamin.
Bottom line: The best fresh vegetables and fruits are those in season and grown locally. “Off-season,” frozen vegetables will give you a high concentration of nutrients. Choose all natural or organic vegetables that have been flash frozen and vacuum sealed for optimal nutrient value. Finally, lightly steam, or lightly roast vegetables to minimize the loss of water soluble vitamins. Over cooking and boiling vegetables can decrease nutrient value leaching nutrients into the water that you typically dump down the sink. Vegetables should have a vibrant bright color when served.