Q: Are canned, frozen or fresh vegetables healthier? I would assume fresh, but I want to make sure. Canned and frozen are so much more convenient for me and I tend to waste a lot when I buy fresh produce. But, if fresh are that much better for you then I will try to make the switch.
A: We all know that fruits and vegetables are key to any healthy diet. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber that protect us from a host of diseases. But, is it OK to stray over to the frozen or canned food section of your grocery store to pick up your produce? This is an often asked question and for good reason, as it would only seem to make sense that fresh is best. So, let’s take a closer look at this common question and see who the clear winner really is!
Fresh Vs Frozen Fruit And Vegetables Debate
As mentioned above, it only seems to make sense that fresh produce is the best for you. Now, that logic isn’t wrong per se, but to really answer this question we first need to look at two things:
- The pocess that fresh and frozen or canned produce go through before they reach your plate.
- The effect on the fruits and vegetables nutrient levels during that process.
In your typical scenario, fresh produce is grown hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from your mouth. That product goes through a process of picking, storing, packing, shipping, and storing again before it’s purchased for consumption.
What many don’t realize is that this process can take several days to weeks. During this process, fresh fruit and veggies will lose some of their nutrients from the time they are picked until they enter your body.
On the other hand, frozen and canned vegetables are packaged right after harvest, thus locking in the nutrients. In fact, in 1998 the FDA claimed that frozen fruits and vegetables provide the same nutrients and health benefits as fresh. And some will even argue that frozen vegetables are healthier. Why? They don’t lose their nutrients on the truck ride to the store or after sitting under ultra violet lights all day while sitting on the shelf. More so, scientists at the Institute of Food Research claim that frozen vegetables can have up to 45% more nutrients than fresh!
But, hold on just a second, that doesn’t mean that this holds true for all produce across the board, as certain nutrients can react differently to the various types of storing.
OK, So Is It Fresh or Frozen?
If you remember, when I first discussed fresh produce, we outlined a typical scenario of the produce being grown thousands of miles away. And we learned that produce can lose it’s valuable nutrients during the long process it takes to meet your mouth.
We also learned that while frozen in this case can be more nutritious, we still don’t know how all nutrients react to the various types of storage.
So, your best bet is to simply buy your produce from a local farmer that has been freshly picked. Or, start your own garden and pick your produce as needed. This way you will get your fruits and vegetables at their nutritional peak. Plus, you won’t have to worry about any negative consequences during the storage process.
But, Wait… There’s One More Side To This Debate!
Now that you know which is best, what it really comes down to is preference. If you are preparing a fruit tray for a special event it might make more sense to cut up fresh fruit. However, if you are making a fruit smoothie then opting for frozen fruits would be a good option. If you’re making a green bean casserole, perhaps canned is the easier option.
Convenience is another big factor. Frozen vegetable bags that can be steamed in the microwave are an excellent and easy way to prepare nutritious veggies in just a matter of minutes. The more convenient it is for you to eat something, the more of it you just might eat – and this rings true for produce as well! This is of the utmost importance since only 27% of adults get the daily recommended amounts of fruits and veggies.
In the end, consume your produce as you prefer. Besides, there may be bigger issues, like whether you should cook your vegetables or not. :)
Tip: Make sure to prepare and eat canned produce in the juice. The juice can hold a third of the nutrients.
Bonus Tip: Don’t buy frozen vegetables in butter sauce or cream.