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Why You Should Warm Up to Frozen Vegetables

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You may have assumed that “fresh is best” when it comes to produce. After all, fresh vegetables and fruits are the least processed, and health experts are always encouraging people to eat food in its most natural state.

But frozen produce is an exception -- it turns out, those boxes and bags of frozen carrots, broccoli, and berries are often just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts in the produce aisle. That’s great news for your health, as well as your wallet.

A pair of new studies compared fresh and frozen versions of an assortment of vegetables and fruits and found that, on balance, levels of vitamins and key antioxidants in frozen varieties were equivalent to those of fresh, just-purchased produce. And when the researchers compared frozen produce to fresh varieties that had been stored in the fridge for three days, the frozen produce often came out on top. The studies, which were commissioned by the British Frozen Foods Federation, confirm findings from previous research.

To understand frozen’s advantage, we have to compare the paths fresh and frozen products take from farm to table. Vitamin C and many antioxidants are particularly vulnerable to heat, light, and oxygen, and their levels often start to decline immediately after produce is harvested. Fresh produce may travel across the country or across the globe, sit on supermarket shelves for several days, and then hang out in your fridge for even longer – and all along this journey, nutrient levels decline. Many people go grocery shopping once a week, which means hardier produce items may be sitting in the fridge for five, six, or seven days before they’re served. In addition, fresh produce may be picked when it’s still slightly immature, which means the plants won’t have time to develop their full nutritional potential.

Frozen produce, on the other hand, is typically picked near peak ripeness (when nutrient levels are at their highest) and quickly processed. Frozen vegetables are typically blanched in boiling water, which does cause some initial nutrient degradation, but once the veggies are packaged and stored at below zero temps, they’re largely protected from environmental conditions that degrade sensitive vitamins and antioxidants.

And frozen veggies and fruits offer other perks as well. They are often less expensive than fresh produce, have a longer shelf life (which translates to less waste), and minimize prep work.

On the flip side, fresh vegetables typically have superior texture and flavor (unless of course the fresh produce is out of season, like fresh strawberries in December). And keep in mind that the studies tested mass-produced vegetables and fruits from mainstream supermarkets. If you’re eating local or homegrown produce that spends significantly less time in transit, there’s a good chance it offers more nutrition than frozen varieties. There’s no way a frozen carrot is going to trump one plucked from your backyard garden.

The bottom line: Eat a variety of fresh and/or frozen produce to shower your body with as much nutrition as possible. There’s absolutely no reason to shun frozen varieties or consider them second-rate. The more servings of colorful vegetables you eat, the better – and if the ease or affordability of frozen vegetables helps you squeeze in a few more daily servings, then you’re only going to benefit by keeping a fully-stocked freezer.

I love to cook and typically use fresh vegetables because they’re more versatile in the kitchen, but I also keep several bags of frozen broccoli, green beans, and veggie blends in the freezer in case my crisper drawer supply runs low mid-week.

What’s your preference – fresh or frozen?

Last Updated:10/31/2013
Important:The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Everyday Health.
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Date: 06.12.2018, 04:38 / Views: 44263