This article was written in response to a friends question a few days ago. The question was, is there a difference in the Nutritional Value of Frozen VS Fresh Fruits and Vegetables? Well in order to answer this important question, I am going to break it into two more questions. What kind of fresh fruits and vegetables are we talking about? And what kind of frozen fruits and vegetables are we talking about?
In an ideal world, in terms of your health, you would eat only fresh produce that you pick right from the plant in your backyard at the peak of ripeness. These produce that have never been exposed to chemical fertilizers or insecticides are the best fuel your body can get. Rich in nutrients that are bio-available, they offer the most benefit to your body.
But since most of us don’t live in that paradise, let’s look at the other choices there are. Whenever possible, a close second best are local farmers’ markets. Since produce sold in local markets are not meant to travel long distances, they are allowed to ripen in the plant, thus developing more of their nutritional value. Also, many local farmers use traditional growing methods that are either organic or close to it.
A third option, and one that does not look as good as the two presented before, are buying fresh produce at big supermarkets. These products typically travel thousands of miles before getting to the shelves. These thousands of miles translate in days of traveling, which means they have to be picked green, or immature, to not go bad before they get to you. This also means they need to be gassed and sprayed with chemical products to stay looking good for when it is time for you to buy them. These produce not only stopped developing their nutritional value very early in the process, but are also exposed to oxydation for all that time. The longer a produce is exposed to oxydation, the lesser its nutritional value is.
So those are the alternatives for buying fresh produce. But what if you don’t have the trees in your backyard, or don’t have access to a local farmers’ market? Well in that case, let’s look at the situation with frozen produce, so that we can answer the question about frozen vs fresh fruits and vegetables.
The best frozen produce are organic frozen fruits or vegetables. These are organically grown produce that, because they don’t need to travel, are picked at a higher stage of ripening. They are soon flash frozen, and this allows them to maintain most of their nutritional value. These frozen fruits and vegetables, in fact, are more nutritious than the fresh ones that sit in a truck for days before getting to you.
Keep in mind that the nutritional value of a frozen fruit or vegetable is directly related to the quality of the fresh produce before it is frozen. So don’t go for just any brand on the shelf, as some of them may contain GMO’s, pesticides and insecticides, and may in fact have traveled just as far as the products we were talking about before, before being frozen.
The freezing and packing processes used also affect the quality of the final product. Some companies add sugars or sodium to the produce as part of their freezing process, which, needless to say, goes in detriment of the quality of it.
If you decide to freeze your produces at home, here are some tips on how to do it, to make it as close as possible to a flash freezing, hence retaining more of the nutritional value:
- Buy local organic produce.
- Start by blanching your produce in order to kill any bacteria or microorganisms that are on it. This also stops the enzymes that otherwise would be responsible for the produce being spoiled. To do this, quickly pass the produce through boiling water and immediately after, submerge it in icy water so that it doesn’t cook.
- To freeze them, you want to arrange them separately and freeze them as fast as possible (use the lowest temperature setting). Ice trays are very handy for this, or you could use a baking sheet too. Put in the freezer, uncovered, in a place where they get the most cold airflow.
- Let the produce freeze (until it’s solid frozen) but don’t leave them too long so that they don’t get freeze burnt.
- Place the frozen produce in an air tight container or a plastic bag. You will want to have the least amount of oxygen possible in contact with it so that oxydation doesn’t hurt the nutritional value. If you have a way to vacuum pack them, that would be ideal.
- Put them back in the freezer, and Voila, you have flash frozen your own produce.
With all this said, I think everything is in place to answer the original question. Is there a difference in the Nutritional Value of Frozen VS Fresh Fruits and Vegetables? The answer is yes, there is, but the winner is not just one of the two, but a combination, here it goes:
- Your best choice is eating freshly picked organic products.
- When out of season or not available, second best are organic flash frozen fruits and vegetables.
- And a close third is to buy fresh organic produce, and flash freeze them at home.