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.
I think we all can agree that some vegetables are better than no vegetables. Let's also add fruits and grains to that statement.
Man's (species) jaw, throat and teeth (molars in particular) are best designed for eating vegetables and fruits. Technically, we have no real incisors (for meat eating), only vestigial incisors, as early man (species) primarily ate fruits and vegetables. Grains were added when primitive farming became to be developed (again, molars).
So, our metabolisms are metered to expect fruits, grains and vegetables in our diets. Man began eating meats much later in history.
By the way, foods sent to the Space Station (and also often used by hikers on the trail) are irradiated with nuclear beams, which kill all bacteria, spores, etc. and make the foods virtually nonperishable. So microwaves take just a bit of a rear seat to that process.
Therefore, however you obtain, prepare and consume fruits, grains and vegetables, please make these a regular part of your diet. A Big Mack doesn't count.
You will be happy at the outcome.
10/20/2015 - 8:09pm
I find the best way to get all the nutrients that are in fruits and veggies are to buy frozen and use them in something like a nutribullet. You don't have to cook, so they lose none of the nutrients available in them straight from the freezer. I find this to be a good way to get my fruits and vegetable, and not either, A) Need to shop every other day for fresh items so that they do not lose nutritional value in the refrigerator. Or B) Find that I have to throw out spoiled items because I bought more than I could use before they went bad. As it is stated in the article above...frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen at the peak of ripeness...and this is valuable information.
10/02/2015 - 4:18pm
It seems nothing is healthy anymore these days.
09/21/2015 - 10:20am
Well I've just had my eyes opened!
I always bought strictly fresh veg as I thought frozen stuff would lose all it's goodness. Golly, I may have to review my cooking practices (not to mention the fact that preparing fresh veg is time consuming and a real pain in the tush)
08/30/2015 - 5:56am
I find this article a bit confusing
"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.
"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."
Why would you want to "buy them fresh and ripe", when "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."
It might be more helpful to specifically state which fruits/vegetables might be best fresh/frozen or, which will never actually be nutrient rich when purchased at a store, like tomatoes, perhaps?
08/24/2015 - 2:49pm
boiling frozen vegetables extracts all of the nutrients and therefore are of not much nutritional value. Steaming them is quick and easy while keeping the nutrients sealed in.
08/10/2015 - 2:27pm
The best way to serve frozen vegs is to soak them in boiling water and cover it. This first round will defrost them. Throw away the water and soak them again in boiling water add a bit of sea salt and allow vegs to soak until the desired crispness. Drain. Add pepper, lemon, butter or coconut oil to taste. No cooking, steaming or microwave required. Easy and healthy. Enjoy. Sherry
07/02/2015 - 6:23am
Yet another reason to either grow your own or buy US Organic if you can afford it. Anything in a can is pretty worthless-except for the fiber-rarely are we "sodium deficient". I appreciate the comments from the transporter. Most of the "vine ripe" vegetables in the grocery stores are trash. You can usually smell the ripeness in fruit and vegetables, which transfers to great tasting food when you eat them!
04/30/2015 - 1:35pm
frozen food is bad
04/27/2015 - 3:47pm
From experience as a former cross-country refrigerated fruit and produce hauler, most is far from ripe when shipped. Tomatoes were bright green, after loading the shipper would fill my trailer with methane gas and I was instructed to monitor and vent so that the tomatoes were pale pink when delivered. I’ve seen these tomatoes sold in stores as “vine ripened” and upon inquiry was informed that “vine ripened” only meant size.