Is fresh superior to frozen?

A common question that clients ask is: Are frozen vegetables as nutritious as fresh?  A lifelong friend, who recently gave his diet an overhaul and is now seeing amazing results from his workouts, asked me this question yesterday.  He’s been eating a lot of fresh veggies and wondered if frozen would provide the nutrients he’s looking for.  Here’s a produce buying guide, from fresh to frozen to freeze-dried.

Fresh.  Thumbs up. Veggies and fruits bring color, texture and taste to your plate, enhancing your meals’ sensual appeal.  Double thumbs up if your produce is local and seasonal.  Buy from a farmer’s market or subscribe to a CSA to get produce that tastes better and has the highest nutrient content.  What about organic? Buy all that you can organic, especially the Dirty Dozen, which are the 12 varieties of produce with the highest pesticide residue following cleaning.

Frozen. Thumps up. Frozen veggies and fruits are comparable in nutrients to fresh. Frozen produce is picked at the height of its season and preserved immediately, so it could be higher in certain nutrients than fresh. Think of how far some fresh produce items travel to your plate…time and travel will wear down the produce.  Frozen allows us to enjoy out-of-season foods all year round without creating a large carbon footprint. For example, I love okra but in Tucson we only see fresh once a year. Plus, frozen is super convenient.  Keep a stash of frozen fruit for smoothies or quick desserts; and use frozen bell peppers, cubed butternut squash and stir-fry veggies to round out meals and save some time.

Canned. Thumbs down. Sitting in water depletes veggies and fruits of their water soluble nutrients, such as vitamin C.  Plus salt and sugar are often added to veggies and fruit when they are canned. There are exceptions.  For vegetables that are so good for you, we can overlook the added salt. Exceptions:

  • Canned tomatoes and tomato products
  • Canned beans
  • Canned bean and vegetable soups
  • Canned beets
  • Canned pineapple

Look for canned foods that have BPA-free liners.  BPA is a chemical that can be found in may plastics, such as plastic bottles.  Increased knowledge of its negative health effects has triggered sport bottle and baby bottle manufactures to reformulate their plastics in order to eliminate this toxic hormone-distrupting chemical.  BPA is also unfortunately found in the epoxy lining inside of the cans of foods.  Find BPA-free canned food companies here.  Eden is the only company to produce BPA-free liners for canned beans and other legume products.

In a jar.  Thumbs up, usually.  Just watch out for added salt, fat and sugar.  Yes, the water soluble nutrients will be lower, just like canned items, but marinara sauce and artichoke hearts aren’t staples that could leave you vitamin-deficient whereas eating canned vegetables each night would.

Freeze-dried.  Thumbs up. But watch the portion size; without the water, freeze-dried fruit will be less filling, and you can easily eat quite a bit of freeze-dried fruit in one sitting.  Watch out for added sugars.  Fruit should be the only thing listed in the ingredient list.  Remember to prioritize organic for the Dirty Dozen, which is especially important for kids downing freeze-dried strawberries, peaches and apples every day.  Freeze-dried fruit is sweeter than fresh and frozen, so it can be used as a sweetener; use it in oatmeal, trail mix and baked goods.  We took Bare Fruit freeze-dried apples on vacation last week; I put it in my oatmeal, delicious!  I also put the apples with raisins and walnuts for a trail mix and the tartness of the granny apples cut the sweetness of raisins nicely.

Dried fruit. Depends on who you are.  Have a hard time with portion-control?  Skip this calorie-dense snack.  Fast paced life?  This is a portable, convenient snack.  Baker? Use in muffins, cakes, cookies, etc to add taste and texture.  Whoever you are, remember the basics from above: watch out for added sugar and prioritize organics.  Another concern with dried fruit are additives, such as sulfates and food dyes.  Read your ingredient lists and avoid dried fruit that is anything but fruit.

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.

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