Fresh vs Frozen Fruit and Vegetables — Which Are Healthier?
Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which can improve health. Eating more fruits and vegetables may even help protect against heart disease.
Fresh produce may not always be available, and frozen varieties are a convenient alternative. However, their nutritional value may differ. This article compares the nutrient content of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Most fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe. This allows them time to fully ripen during transportation. It also gives them less time to develop a full range of vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants.
In the US, fruits and vegetables may spend anywhere from 3 days to several weeks in transit before arriving at a distribution center.
However, the USDA states that some produce, such as apples and pears, can be stored for up to 12 months under controlled conditions before being sold. During transportation, fresh produce is generally stored in a chilled, controlled atmosphere and treated with chemicals to prevent spoiling.
Once they reach the supermarket, fruits and vegetables may spend an additional 1–3 days on display. They’re then stored in people’s homes for up to 7 days before being eaten.
Frozen Fruit and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables that will be frozen are generally picked at peak ripeness, when they’re the most nutritious. Once harvested, the vegetables are often washed, blanched, cut, frozen and packaged within a few hours.
Fruits tend not to undergo blanching, as this can greatly affect their texture. Instead, they can be treated with ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) or added sugar to prevent spoiling. Usually, no chemicals are added to produce before freezing.
Fresh vs Frozen: Which Is More Nutritious?
Results from studies that have compared the nutrient content of frozen and fresh produce vary slightly. This is because some studies use freshly harvested produce, which removes the effects of storage and transport time, while others use produce from supermarkets.
Additionally, differences in processing and measuring methods can influence results. However, in general, the evidence suggests that freezing can preserve nutrient value, and that the nutritional content of fresh and frozen produce is similar.
Frozen Produce May Contain More Vitamin C
Frozen produce may contain higher levels of certain nutrients. This is most commonly seen in studies that compare frozen produce with fresh varieties that have been stored at home for a few days.
For example, frozen peas or spinach may have more vitamin C than supermarket-bought fresh peas or spinach that have been stored at home for several days.
For some fruits, freeze drying resulted in higher vitamin C content, when compared to fresh varieties.
Take Home Message
Freshly picked fruits and vegetables straight from the farm or your own garden are of the highest quality.
However, if you are shopping at the supermarket, frozen produce may be equal to, or in some cases, even more nutritious than fresh varieties.
At the end of the day, frozen fruit and vegetables are a convenient and cost-effective alternative to fresh options. It’s best to choose a mix of fresh and frozen produce to ensure you get the best range of nutrients.
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