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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

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

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

Anonymous

07/28/2010 - 3:02pm

Tomatoes have more nutrients when cooked.

Anonymous

06/18/2010 - 7:25pm

I concur!

Anonymous

06/14/2010 - 12:59pm

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

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

Anonymous

05/15/2010 - 1:16am

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

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

I like the big bags of frozen vegetable and the frozen berries.

I read up on it and this seems right to get the b est nutrition is with frozen bags of veg/fruit.

Here' an idea......I watched the PBS show with the three excellent doctors and they went on and on about changing our diet to a more sensible way of living for good health.

They all said about the same thing

1. Try to eliminate or almost eliminate beef, pork, chicken
2. some fish is ok.
3. Go to frozen vegetables and fruit.
4. Rye and pumpernickle is best...avoid all others..even whole wheat....
5. Nuts
6. Oatmeal
7. No sugar no salt
8. exercise
9. no smoking-drugs etc.

This will help you immune system and bring down sugar levels etc.

You will find that you appetite and desire for sweets almost totally is gone after just one week.

This means you have a terrific weight reduction going on to.

I have gone from waist 36 to 32 now....easy too....just get your mind set right and do it.

This can be modified if you have too...but sugar and salt are real no no's. And stay away from fast food joints and pre pakaged foods at the store.. Make you list to buy and stick to it. It will save you big bucks and lots of doctor visits later on.

You may say...wait a minute...to extreme.....Ok....so go to a nursing home or to the hospital and walk the halls and see the misery there and be happy you are on the right track avoiding those results from bad eating habits.

My friends have gotten over deep depression, heart problems, even cancer. Remember that asparagases are great if you get bad cancer....go read up on it and try it.....tell your friends to check that out too.

These are just stuff I have tried and seem to work for me. I take zero RX and would never take chemo or radiation......if you are considering that remember i had a friend that took all that expensive stuff and died a horrible death....only it dragged his misery out for a few years. Don't have to listen to these doctors trying to experiment on you.......one opinion only.....but ask any person who works for Hospice about what they see...wow...I asked and was told that radiation and chemo are at the bottom of her list and was crossed off totally.

We have to be serious about our eating and decisions as no one else will do it for you in the end. You must make good decisions and then do it...make it a life time change....be thin and strong. A healthy body needs a healthy mind and mind set.

Anonymous

04/16/2010 - 1:34pm

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