Modern-day grocery stores are set up to provide us with foods that promise fast and easy convenience, but this doesn’t mean those foods are the most healthful for our lifestyles.
Some health professionals recommend shopping the perimeter of the store and avoiding the aisles to find the most nutritious food. This is typically where the fresh fruits and vegetables are set up. Frozen fruits and vegetables still have many of the nutritional benefits fresh food has to offer, so if your frozen section happens to be in those middle aisles, you might miss out on convenient food that still has health benefits.
Fresh and frozen food processing
Besides the climate in which they are stored, the main difference between fresh and frozen foods is the way they are processed. Frozen food is picked at peak ripeness time when nutrients are the most abundant. After harvest, they are typically washed and chopped within a few hours and then frozen. While no chemicals are typically added for preservation, fruits are usually processed with Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to prevent spoiling.
Frozen vegetables are usually blanched, which means they are dunked into ice water after being boiled.
This process stops enzyme processes to prevent spoiling and the loss of color, and it cleans the surface of any organisms that are left behind.
Fresh fruits and vegetables have a different production process. These are usually picked a few days before they reach full ripeness so they can travel to their destination. During this time, the fruits and vegetables continue to develop beneficial minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins naturally. This produce is stored in a cool environment and treated with chemicals to prevent spoiling.
Nutritional differences between fresh and frozen produce
One of the most asked questions about fresh versus frozen produce is about the nutritional content. Fresh produce has to be healthier, right? Not necessarily. A surprising amount of nutritional integrity can be preserved through the process of freezing food.
Research on fresh versus frozen foods has shown that most of the nutritional content is similar and that any decreases that occur in frozen foods are minuscule.
Some nutrients are more prone to losses during processing, which includes water-soluble nutrients like Vitamin C and B vitamins. Fat soluble nutrients like antioxidants Vitamin A and Vitamin E experience minimal losses when being processed for frozen storage.
What are the best frozen foods?
In some frozen foods, the nutritional content is actually better when compared to fresh produce as referenced in a study out of the University of California.
In this study, the following foods were reported to contain no major nutritional differences when comparing the fresh and frozen variety: corn, peas, strawberries, carrots, green beans, spinach, broccoli, and blueberries.
The same study found that in some cases, frozen foods contained more nutrients than their fresh counterparts. This was the case with broccoli, where it was discovered to have more riboflavin than fresh broccoli.
All in all, fresh and frozen produce both contain beneficial nutrients to support a healthy diet and lifestyle. They are nutritionally similar, and consuming a mix of both provides a strong foundation for getting the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage.