There has been a big push recently to eat local, which may discourage some to avoid frozen vegetables. Not so fast, health experts advise. When it comes to fruits and veggies frozen can be just as good as fresh. Here’s what you need to consider.
Eating local does reduce environmental impact, but food waste is often still a problem. Fresh produce is highly perishable and often spoils before it can make it onto the plate. Purchase a combination of fresh and frozen veggies for best results. Buy what you will use in the next day or so fresh and plan meals around frozen produce for later in the week.
A University of California, Davis study found the same levels of fiber, iron, calcium, and other minerals in frozen and fresh versions of corn, broccoli, carrots, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries and blueberries. Researchers found similar results when comparing vitamins in both versions of produce.
Although your favorite produce may be available out of season buying it then may be cost prohibitive. In this case, choosing frozen is the way to go. Frozen produce has been picked and packaged at its peak so nutrients are protected and cost is more budget friendly.
Both can lose nutrients
As fresh produce sits (whether in your fridge or in trucks as it travels to your grocer) it losses nutritional value. To get the best from your produce, buy in season and consume soon after purchase. Frozen produce can also lose nutritional value with temperature changes in your freezer. If you plan to hold frozen produce for a while, place it in your deep freezer (where there is less opening and closing the door) or the very back of your freezer where it can maintain temperature better.
The bottom line
Although there are variations among fruits and vegetables, overall, the difference is not significant enough to impact health outcomes. The bigger impact comes from skipping fruits and vegetable, which would impact health negatively. Ultimately, what matters most is that you eat fruits and vegetable whether they are fresh or frozen.
• Look for frozen products labeled U.S. Fancy (generally better than U.S. 1 or 2) or individually quick frozen for highest nutritional value.
• Most Americans don’t get the recommended 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Make your decision about fresh or frozen based on what fits best in your lifestyle and budget. If getting to the store to buy fresh often is hard, buy frozen so you don’t lose the opportunity for nutritionally sound meals.