Advertisement

Q. Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables: Are we giving up nutrition for convenience?

By Rachael Moeller Gorman, November/December 2007

Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables: Are we giving up nutrition for convenience?

A. 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.

And as winter approaches, 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 or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.

Download a FREE Healthy Vegetable Side Dish Recipe Cookbook!

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

The question is unless you get your produce from a farmer's market, you are getting days old produce. Only when local farmers' produce and meat are used can it be possibly fresh.

Most of the time frozen is more fresh than produce in a grocery market, they can only bring in things from the warehouse miles away where the crop is stored, and possibly altered for better preserving.

Anonymous

02/16/2015 - 2:18am

I still prefer the veg I can each summer, I can control the salt and any chemicals that go into my food which is none!
When in a pinch I will buy frozen rather then canned, even if you rinse the salt off the canned veg it has already been Cooked in to the veg and is there to stay!

Growing your own no matter where you live is easy, all you need is a five gal bucket from the store for a couple bucks and some dirt! If you have lots of money you can go out and buy fancy pots but the veg won't grow any better, also grow food in your flower garden!

Find an empty field that hasn't been sprayed but yellow with danialion they are richer Nutritions than some spinach and other greens you can't tell what they are in a salad!!!!

Happy eating!!

Anonymous

02/10/2015 - 5:56pm

I do use "boil in a bag.......in microwave but cook in 3 minutes...........and quite a lot of the vegetables can fit in the bag with only a couple of tablespoons of water...............Carole A

Anonymous

01/28/2015 - 1:14pm

damned if you do and damned if you don't

Anonymous

01/24/2015 - 5:25pm

I prefer fresh, I love to steam my veggies and add just a little rock salt. But if I can't find good produce at the store I'll buy frozen, sometimes I'll just skip it because I don't like most packaged foods. I'll be growing my own veggies soon.

Anonymous

11/28/2014 - 9:22pm

i love vegetables they are my life i worship them :)))))))))))))) yum

Anonymous

11/26/2014 - 10:56am

"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."

To all of you saying that fresh is healthier and to "stay away from frozen vegetables," where are your credentials and sources that give you the authority to make such claims?

Anonymous

11/17/2014 - 4:59pm

I prefer Fresh even know its more exspensive its still a better choice.

Anonymous

10/29/2014 - 2:20pm

More importantly, call your food suppliers and ask for genetically modified food to be labelled. We should have the right to know what we eat.

Anonymous

10/27/2014 - 1:24pm

It is so stupid to think that those frozen vegetables are healthier than fresh ones!!
In South America most of us consume fresh vegetables and there is not such a lot of illnesses like here in this part of the world!!
Whoever invented all this rubbish packed food is really not thinking about health but about business!!!
Dora Helena

Anonymous

10/14/2014 - 4:37pm

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner