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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.

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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Sounds like we're trying to get back to the Garden of Eden? Adam & Eve had it made, then came along McDonalds, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, aka, KFC, sounds healthier! It's hard to break bad habits, believe me I've been trying! Keep the faith people!

Anonymous

04/26/2010 - 3:06am

IS EVERY BODY SURE- that FROZEN is better, I really hope it IS because thats what i usally eat !! I buy mixed frozen veggies generic brands! corn/peas/greenbeans/carrots ! yum yum :)

..... Is there a best brand or blend ??

Anonymous

05/11/2010 - 4:32am

I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the steam-in-bag vegetables! They taste so fresh!

Anonymous

05/15/2010 - 1:16am

SOUNDS LIKE FROZEN VEGTABLES ARE A GOOD CHOICE WHEN THE VEGGS ARE IN SEASON AND U GROW UR O VEGGS WOULD BE BETTER. _ MARIA PARKER

Anonymous

06/06/2010 - 2:31am

I agree with everything written above by Rachael Moeller Gorman except for one thing! She had me convinced that she knew what she was talking about until her last sentence: " Finally, steam or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamin".

In my opinion and also in the opinion of others i.e. Dr. Mercola, microwaving anything especially vegetables completely destroys all the nutrients!
Go to Google Search: 'Dr. Mercola microwave oven hazards.' and see for yourself.

Furthermore, it should be noted that overcooking vegetables also destroy's nutrients. Steaming is undoubtedly better than boiling, eating them raw is best of all and crispy or partly cooked is much better than overcooked. Back in the 1950's, it was commonly thought that boiling cabbage with bi-carbonate of soda made it taste better until it was discovered that all the nutrients were neutralized.

I also believe that organic fruits and vegetables are better than non organic, but once again, what is the point of the extra expense if you are going to microwave them? It would make more sense to buy non organic and steam them!

Apart from the harmful fertilizers used in non-organic foods, they also contain preservatives that act as appetizer's which means you want to eat more.
Therefore, eating organic means that you eat less which results in buying less which saves you money.
Organic frozen fruits and vegetables are also more economic than fresh fruits and vegetables as there is less waste.

David Suckling, Orlando Florida.

Anonymous

06/13/2010 - 12:19pm

I concur!

Anonymous

06/14/2010 - 12:59pm

Tomatoes have more nutrients when cooked.

Anonymous

06/18/2010 - 7:25pm

My doctor wants me to start a non-processed food diet. Are frozen veggies and fruits processed?

Anonymous

07/28/2010 - 3:02pm

You are good to go on the frozen veges/fruit. They are definitely NOT processed. Processed food are foods that are not natural, and are "man-made" in a lab. This includes things like fast food, trans fats, high fructose corn syrups, etc..... lots of things in cans as well. If you look at the label and there are a lot of things on there you have no clue what they are.....that's processed food.

Frozen Fruit/Veges is just that, its fruit/veges that are froze!

Anonymous

07/30/2010 - 3:19pm

I think the steamed veggies in a bag is abd idea. It smells so much like plastic and it very unappetizing. It can't be good for you.

Anonymous

08/20/2010 - 11:53am

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