Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are frozen fruits and vegetables less healthy than fresh fruits and vegetables?

I am happy to report that this is a Myth. Common sense might lead us to believe that fresh fruits and vegetables would be far more nutritious than their frozen counterparts. Although this is generally accepted, did you know that fresh produce is picked, boxed, often transported over long distances and then left to sit on store shelves for up to several weeks? The time lapse between picking fresh produce and purchasing them at a store can often cause them to lose some of their nutritional value as they are exposed to light and air. Both taste and texture may also be diminished.

Before getting to the freezer, frozen fruits and vegetables are first picked, they are quickly blanched (cooked for a short time in boiling water or steamed) and immediately frozen and packaged, generally when nutrient levels are at their highest. So frozen fruits and vegetables are processed at their peak, in terms of freshness, and nutrition. This means that the vitamins and nutrients are preserved until the next time the package is opened.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) both report that nutrients in produce are generally NOT lost during freezing (and canning) and they provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh. Another bonus of going frozen is that it’s often less expensive than their fresh counterparts. Though fresh fruits and veggies may be more visually appealing and taste better, they don’t last as long in your fridge and may not be the most nutritious.

At the end of the day, any fruits and vegetables are better than none at all. Just remember:
  • Buy fresh produce in season and buy local when possible
  • Buy non-seasonal produce frozen (if possible)
  • Even using canned fruits and veggies without added salt or sugar is also a good choice
Here are some great ways to include fruits and veggies into your daily routine:

Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables (choose a wide range of colors!) in the fresh and frozen form
  • Keep a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter and in the office
  • Have some cut-up vegetables in the refrigerator at all times for easy snacking
  • Add fresh or frozen fruit to your breakfast meal in cereal, oatmeal or yogurt
  • Choose fruit for dessert (frozen grapes anyone?!)
  • Add a mix of frozen vegetables when you prepare soups, sauces and casseroles

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