Food For thought: Fresh Versus Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

Frozen Food IsleFrozen Food Isle

Fresh is better but frozen is fine!

Frozen Food Isle
Frozen Food Isle

I can remember, as a child, my grandmother telling me that flash foods were better than frozen foods. If you think about it, it makes sense that fresh food would be better for you than frozen food. Frozen food is processed and well, fresh food is fresh. The question in my mind is, is there a significant difference based on research? 

So, are fruit vegetables that frozen less healthy than Fresh?  

Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals. Eating more fruits and vegetables may even help protect against many illnesses.  Fresh produce is not always available, and frozen varieties are convenient and are available 12 months out of their years and maybe cheaper to families that are starting out.  Fresh may not be as fresh as you think and frozen is usually frozen when it is fresher than the fresh varieties you buy on the shelves because they are processed before transport.  

Fruits and vegetables will be frozen after harvesting at their peak ripeness when the vegetables and fruits are at their peak of vitamins and minerals.  Once they are harvested, the vegetables are often washed, blanched, cut, frozen, and packaged quickly. Most modern frozen food is flash frozen. Simply, it is frozen very quickly.  Simply put, the food was frozen more slowly years ago and it might have resulted in a loss of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.  Anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals are the nutrients we really need from vegetables.  

Fruits and vegetables at market
Fruits and vegetables at a farmers market

If you only buy fresh fruit and vegetables, you may be short-changing your nutrition and pocketbook when you skip the freezer cases. Frozen fruit and vegetables can be equal, or superior, in terms of nutrient value, quality, shelf-life and can cost less. Fresh-picked vegetables and fruits straight from the farm or your own garden are of the highest quality, but so is the frozen variety because there is no delay to ship so when they are frozen quickly.   If you eat frozen vegetables, you are not missing the anti-oxidants and nutrients you need.   I recommend that when you are shopping at the supermarket that you choose a mix of fresh and frozen to maximize your nutrition intake.

Read the Labels!  

However, their nutritional value may differ if there are significant additives.  For example, frozen fruits may have added sugar and vegetables may have butter added.  Read the labels carefully and you can maximize your healthy choices in the supermarket and still have the convenience of frozen produce.  

Fruits can be treated with ascorbic acid to keep them fresh but often there are little to no additives to work about in frozen foods.  This is healthy but many other additives may not be good for you. 

Avoid Thawing Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Before Cooking.  

There is some evidence that thawing reduces the vitamin content and especially in greens such as spinach.  Unless you are adding them to a salad such as with corn or they are especially thick like corn-on-the-cob, you do not need to than them no matter what the direction says.   You can put them in a steamer frozen and they will cook the same as if you thawed them  

Recommendation on fruits and vegetables:

  1. Pick a variety of frozen and fresh.
  2. Read the labels.  
  3. Pick a healthy way to cook your vegetables such as steaming them.  
  4. Cook them without thawing if possible.
  5. Steaming vegetables is the healthiest way to cook them.  

The bottom line: Eat more fruit and vegetables. Frozen is ok, but fresh is better.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

1 Comment on "Food For thought: Fresh Versus Frozen Fruit and Vegetables"

  1. Good advice…


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