Food & Diet
Fresh Vegetables vs. Frozen – What’s The Difference?
The evidence goes back and forth on this one. We, as a generation, have been raised on the belief that fresh is always better, but is it really? Some experts no longer seem to think so.
Frozen vegetables have become a ubiquitous part of the diets of most families.
They come pre-cut, pre-washed, ready to eat, ready to cook and require almost no prepping time except that you need to defrost it. Frozen produce has become a really great way to squeeze in a couple of more servings of fruits and veggies for your family. The average American eats only 3 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday instead of the recommended 9. Frozen produce, because they’re so convenient, have become a great way to get in some much needed veggie servings and they’re pretty cheap too which is an added benefit.
In the past, they’ve always taken the backseat to fresh produce, especially during the summer months when fresh produce is abundant and cheap. Most people also stock up on them during the winter months because of how expensive produce can become during the season – if you can find fresh produce at all. Yet despite all the conveniences we experience thanks to frozen produce most consumers still feel like they’re subpar compared to fresh produce. Now experts are saying that nutrition-wise, it might not always be the case.
Frozen food gets a bad rap for being processed or less than “fresh” but what experts are finding out is that some frozen food, fruits and vegetables to be exact, are much more nutritious than their “farm fresh” counterparts.
You see, the crisp and vibrantly colored vegetables and fruits in the produce aisle at your supermarket had to travel weeks (or sometimes months) and miles to get to your local grocers. This means that in order for these fruits and veggies to arrive at your local supermarket looking the way they do, they had to be picked before they were ripe. In some cases, chemicals are even used to induce ripeness on the road.
The bag of frozen peas on the other hand had to be harvested when they were ripe, or else they wouldn’t taste right after getting thawed. Just the fact that they were picked at optimum ripeness means that the fruit or vegetable has ripened to a point where the optimum amount of nutrients have developed. Fresh fruits, owing to the fact that they have to be shipped to different parts of the country if not the world, do not have the benefit of ripening to its optimum level of healthy goodness.
Fruits and vegetables lose nutrients the moment they are picked, which is another reason why frozen produce could be better for you than their fresh counterparts.
Frozen fruits and veggies get blast frozen merely minutes after they are harvested and washed. The blast freezing essentially “freezes the food in time”, preventing it from losing any more nutrients. Fresh vegetables and fruits on the other hand have been picked weeks in advance before they even get to the supermarket.
These sweeping generalizations however are not always correct. There are some cases wherein fresh might still be better, and if you can get it in season, fresh produce is still a better alternative to frozen. A research team from the Leatherhead Food Research organization found that frozen broccoli and frozen carrots had higher levels of vitamin C, lutein and beta-carotene. Frozen sprouts are nutritionally superior to fresh, however fresh spinach was better than frozen. All types of berries and peas were better off frozen than fresh.
Researchers do agree that freshly PICKED is still best, but also claim that most of the time frozen versions of most produce will be nutritionally superior.
Freezing also preserves food much like canning, pickling and chemical preservatives do. Except that by freezing your food you are eliminating any need for any type of additive. Additives can sometimes be found in pre-packaged spinach and leafy greens.
Like all types of food however, frozen veggies and fruits will inevitably lose some of their nutrients during cooking.
Heat can destroy polyphenols and some water soluble vitamins – that is why it might be best to stick to steaming instead of boiling to thaw your frozen veggies.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are like the fast food of the produce aisle except that they improve your health not destroy it. Planting your own garden is about the only way to make sure your family gets to eat freshly picked produce, but for those days when you can’t get your hands on freshly picked produce, frozen fruits and vegetables will do just fine.