Blog on All Things Nutrition
While people may think lesser of frozen fruits and vegetables, they can be a great option and alternative to keep in stock in your freezer especially when time is tight or when there's nothing left in the refrigerator. In fact, frozen may even be healthier during certain months!
First, a bit about frozen....
Frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen right at their nutritional peak, so they can actually be a healthier option when the fruit or vegetable is out of season as they have a higher vitamin content.
Frozen vegetables are first blanched (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time), which stops their enzymes from degrading the vegetables that would normally cause loss of flavor, color, and texture over time. Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt, brightens the color, and helps retard the loss of vitamins. These vegetables are then frozen, further slowing down these produce-degrading enzymes.
Nutrient Quality of Frozen: Although some of the water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins, found in all fruits and vegetables are lost in the freezing process. This amount is often much less than that lost from fresh fruit and vegetable transportation and storage. Furthermore, frozen vegetables take less time to cook, which decreases the vitamin losses from cooking.
Note: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade. For best nutritional quality, still eat frozen produce a couple weeks after purchase for optimal nutrition quality.
A bit about fresh...
When fresh fruit or vegetables are out of season, they need to be imported from other states or even other countries. In order for them to be ripe by the time they get to you, they are often picked in their pre-ripe form before the nutrients have time to develop fully. They further lose some of their nutrients during their long travel to your grocery store.
Nutrient Quality of Fresh: Any fruit or vegetable that is allowed to sit (either during travel to the supermarket, on the store shelves, or in your refrigerator) will lose nutrients and vitamins and will most likely be inferior to their frozen counterparts in terms of nutrient quality and quantity. This is why buying local produce is so great! But buying local isn’t always possible for most produce that is out of season.
Enter frozen fruits and veggies!
For those situations, its best to buy frozen. Plus frozen are often a lot cheaper, which is a plus! Similarly, the process of freezing the vegetables softens the starch and, thereby, decreasing the time it takes to cook them and making them a quicker option. The only ingredient in your frozen produce should be the fruit or veggie itself - beware of added salt or sugar on the nutrition label!
Fruits and Vegetables can be cheaper frozen:*
Broccoli $0.09 / oz vs $0.29 / oz fresh
Raspberries $0.29/oz vs $0.50/oz fresh
Blueberries $0.28/oz vs $0.50/oz fresh
Peppers $0.09/oz vs $0.12/oz fresh
Brussels sprouts $0.09/oz vs $0.25/oz fresh
Green beans $0.06/oz vs $0.22/oz fresh
Strawberries $0.20/oz vs $0.25/oz fresh
Spinach $0.11/oz vs $0.25/oz fresh
Peas $0.09/oz vs $0.56/oz fresh
Kale $0.09/oz vs $0.19/oz fresh
Especially if you want vegetables already cut, frozen veggies in their pre-cut form are almost always cheaper than their fresh pre-cut competitors.
*Prices taken from PeaPod in November (Prices of fresh vary by month depending on what's in season - so make sure to check the price regularly).
Having frozen fruit or veggies on hand (even if you don’t eat them on a regular basis) may save you when your fresh supply is eaten and your alternative is going out to eat or a veggie-less dinner. Always keep in mind that eating any type of vegetable or fruit - either fresh, frozen, or even canned (look for BPA free) - is very healthy and important for a healthy diet. Better to eat a fruit or vegetable of lesser nutritional value than not at all.
Bottom line: Unless the fruit or vegetable is in season and you are eating it within a day or two of it being picked, frozen produce will have a higher nutrient and vitamin content and be kinder to your wallet.