Healthy foods often mean fresh fruits and vegetables. However, frozen foods nutrient content is similar to that of fresh produce. In fact, frozen produce typically retains more of its nutritional value than its canned counterparts.
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Frozen Food Nutrition Facts
Frozen produce is often picked at ripeness and flash frozen right in the field, so the maximum nutrients are retained. According to the American Council on Exercise, frozen produce is just as healthy as the fresh variety.
There is a small nutrient loss in the first part of the freezing process. For vegetables, washing, peeling and perhaps blanching is done prior to freezing. The point of blanching is to retain the color of vegetables. Blanching can affect heat-sensitive nutrients.
For example, thiamin, a B vitamin, is susceptible to heat and blanching can decrease the levels of thiamin. Vitamin C is susceptible to air and the longer a food is frozen, the more vitamin C is lost, according to the University of California, Davis.
For example, according to the USDA, one cup of frozen green peas contains 16 milligrams of vitamin C while the same amount of fresh green peas contains 58 milligrams.
Fruits may be washed and peeled, but are not blanched. The freezing temperature keeps produce good to eat for up to a year. Methods of cooking can also decrease nutritional content. Frozen foods actually retain more of their nutrients than fresh or canned vegetables.
Reduce Nutrient Loss
Steaming frozen vegetables in the microwave in little or no water helps to protect the vitamin content of vegetables. Boiling vegetables in large quantities of water will result in more nutrient loss. Roasting vegetables retains nutrients also. Short cooking times and little to no water, as well as larger pieces of vegetables lose the least nutrients. Use the fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, whether they are frozen, fresh or canned. The longer foods are in storage, the more nutrients they lose.
Shop for Fresh
Some people think additives are added to frozen food. This is true only if the food has added sauces or other ingredients in addition to the vegetables or fruits. Sodium and sugar are often added in sauces. Plain frozen fruits and vegetables have no need for additives. To get the most nutrients from your fresh fruits and vegetables, buy them at a farmer's market.
When choosing frozen fruits and vegetables, pick bags of food where you can feel the individual foods. If the bags are hard and solid, this is an indication the food has thawed and refrozen. Make sure the bags are intact, so bacteria hasn't entered the package.
Choose What's Convenient
Even with the nutrients lost in the processes of freezing and canning, frozen fruits and vegetables still have a great deal of nutrients, along with fiber, phytochemicals and water. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables still contain the most nutrients, but you won't find these in your local grocery store. Growing your own or making a regular trip to your local farmer's market is the way to get the freshest of the fresh. Ultimately, the three versions of storage are pretty much equal, nutrient-wise. Pick the ones that are convenient and taste best to you.
- American Council on Fitness: "How Much Difference is There in Nutritional Value Between Fresh and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables?"
- University of California, Davis: "Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits & Vegetables"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Peas, Green, Frozen, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, With Salt"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Peas, Green, Raw"