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Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables

Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables

Are we giving up nutrition for convenience? The answer may surprise you. Americans typically eat only one-third of the recommended daily intake (three servings instead of nine) of fruits and vegetables, so if you’re in a bind, a vegetable in any form is better than no vegetable at all.

In winter, fresh produce is limited–or expensive–in much of the country, which forces many of us to turn to canned or frozen options. While canned vegetables tend to lose a lot of nutrients during the preservation process (notable exceptions include tomatoes and pumpkin), frozen vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets, says Gene Lester, Ph.D., a plant physiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Center in Weslaco, Texas. Why? Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when–as a general rule–they are most nutrient-packed.

While the first step of freezing vegetables–blanching them in hot water or steam to kill bacteria and arrest the action of food-degrading enzymes–causes some water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and the B vitamins to break down or leach out, the subsequent flash-freeze locks the vegetables in a relatively nutrient-rich state.

On the other hand, fruits and vegetables destined to be shipped to the fresh-produce aisles around the country typically are picked before they are ripe, which gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Outward 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. In addition, during the long haul from farm to fork, fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to lots of heat and light, which degrade some nutrients, especially delicate vitamins like C and the B vitamin thiamin.

Bottom line: When vegetables are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe. “Off-season,” frozen vegetables will give you a high concentration of nutrients. Choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color; vegetables of this standard also tend to be more nutrient-rich than the lower grades “U.S. No. 1″ or “U.S. No. 2.” Eat them soon after purchase: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade. Finally, steam rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.

Visit EatingWell.com for free quick and easy healthy recipe collections!

Read more: Basics, Eating for Health, Food, , , ,

By Rachael Moeller Gorman, Eating Well

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20 comments

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1:07AM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Can any one tell me the issue of this article pls.

8:41PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

Thanx.

11:46PM PST on Dec 27, 2011

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11:36AM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

I don't like frozen vegetables because of their texture foremost and the flavour is off, to me. I'll stick with fresh veggies. I do eat frozen fruits, though; berries mostly, and add fresh fruits to make a salad - my breakfast.

5:09AM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

I like frozen peas as ice packs

5:04PM PDT on May 31, 2011

Awesome picture. Thanks for sharing this great info.

3:40AM PDT on May 28, 2011

Great information but I will stick with fresh, though more expensive it seems more filling and tastes better.

10:01AM PDT on Oct 5, 2010

Great information here! Thanks!

5:27PM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

thanks

3:58AM PST on Dec 7, 2009

My state is a good 10 years behind the rest of the country. The markets in my town offer very few organic fresh produce. My only option (if I want a variety) is to buy frozen organic produce.

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