Food Myths Debunked: Are Fresh Foods Always Better Than Frozen?
7 minute read
If you are an avid health article reader, then you’ve probably read how important eating fresh fruits and vegetables are. Are fresh foods really the answer? Or are there other solutions?
Frozen foods get a bad rap all the time, but they’ve been vilified for too long. Frozen fruits and vegetables are not bad for you, in fact, in some situations they can be better than the fresh alternative.
When to Opt for Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Researchers from the University of Georgia spent two years looking at fresh, frozen, and fresh-stored foods. The results of their nutrient analysis study showed that there is virtually no difference between fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.
The surprising difference was found in fresh foods that were stored for five days or more before being consumed. The stored foods showed decreased levels of nutrients.
A separate study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry looked at the nutritional content of fresh fruits and vegetables versus that of frozen ones. It was found that in some situations there was no difference, but in other cases, there were more nutrients found in the frozen versions.
The USDA has changed its guidelines a little bit as they try to make them easier for everyone to understand and to be able to adapt to their age, weight, and gender. The overarching recommendation is for two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day. Using their ChooseMyPlate.gov website can help you track your foods.
Getting a full four and a half cups of fruit and veggies a day can be challenging. With a freezer full of vegetables and fruits that are prewashed and cut, you can reduce your meal prep time down and add more healthy foods to your meals.
A quick stop at your local grocery store will tell you that frozen foods are often less expensive than fresh ones, especially if you’re thinking about fresh organic foods.
If you’re a smoothie fan, then you know that adding some ice and some fresh fruit create a refreshing flavor. But a handful of frozen berries does the same thing at half the cost, while also getting you closer to your daily fruit requirements.
| Related: 6 Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Smoothies |
Frozen vegetables give you the option to pull some out only when you want them and then put them back until later. With fresh fruits and vegetables, you typically need to consume the whole fruit soon after purchase.
Take a second to go check your refrigerator, pantry, or fruit bowl. Are there fresh fruits and vegetables that have been there a little too long, or are there ones that are ready for the garbage?
If you want to cut down on food waste and save yourself some money in the process, going frozen for many of your fruits and veggies is a great solution.
A study looking at the impact of fruit and vegetable storage options discovered that frozen fruits and vegetables can have more antioxidants than their refrigerator-stored counterparts. It turns out that freezing them preserves the antioxidants, and letting the fruit sit in a refrigerator causes some of that free radical fighting power to be leached away.
It seems unbelievable, but the modern ‘harvest-to-freeze’ technology has evolved so much, that fresh fruits and vegetables are picked when they’re ripe, full of flavor and nutritional value, and then quickly frozen. Whereas the fruits and vegetable you buy in the grocery store that are purported to be fresh, have actually been picked prematurely.
These non-frozen fruits and vegetables can spend up to a month in the chain of farms, wholesalers, and retailers before you take them home. All the while, losing nutritional value.
How to Prepare Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
It obviously depends on what the fruit or vegetable is, but your preparation method can leach out some of the important nutrients and antioxidants. The following tips will help you incorporate healthy frozen foods into your daily diet.
♦ When possible, such as a smoothie, use the food exactly the way it is
♦ Steam in the microwave, and then plunge in ice water to stop the cooking process
♦ Saute in a few teaspoons of olive oil for a couple of minutes
♦ Thaw in cool water and add to casseroles
♦ Add frozen foods to soups and stews
Remember that many of the frozen foods you pick have already been blanched. Blanching is a method of immersing vegetables in boiling water or steam for a very short period of time. This stops enzymatic processes and maintains the flavor, color, and texture. Blanching also cleans the surface of the food and removes dirt.
When food is blanched, you don’t need to do as much pre-cooking before using them. If you’re going to put them into a casserole, soup, or another dish where you’ll be cooking all of the ingredients together, there’s no need to pre-cook the frozen foods at all.
The Bottom Line
Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent option for many different reasons. They retain their nutritional value, and in some cases, they’re even better than fresh foods. They’re convenient, which makes it easier to add a little of this and a little of that to the foods you’re cooking so you can hit your recommended intake goals. They also help reduce the amount of food that goes to waste by letting you opt for a little rather than the whole thing.
The key to keeping it healthy when selecting frozen foods is to get the fruit or vegetable as pure as possible. You want to pick a frozen berry that’s frozen right from the field as opposed to one that is sliced and sitting in a cold bath of sugar and syrup.
While you obviously aren’t going to swap out all of your fresh foods for frozen ones, it’s okay to use frozen foods, and they shouldn’t have the stigma of being bad for you anymore.