The consumption of fruits and vegetables are integral to a healthy diet to help protect against illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
However, at the supermarket we can get fruits and vegetables in many forms and there’s debates over which form, fresh or frozen, are better for your health.
So which is it? Read on to find out.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Many people believe that fresh fruits and vegetables are the way to go, whereas others will argue frozen is. Both these arguments have merit and this is because it depends on what type of fresh fruit and vegetable they’re referring to: freshly harvested or supermarket stored.
“Whether fresh is better [than frozen] depends on how fresh the veggies actually are.” – Melanie McGrice, a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
Freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, that are picked and then eaten straight away, are the best type of fruit and vegetable a person can eat. But it’s not something all people have access to.
The reason why freshly harvested fruits and vegetables are better than supermarket stored vegetables is because of a few factors.
Firstly, supermarket stored vegetables are picked before they are ripe. This means they have less time to develop fully (including their vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content).
Secondly supermarket stored vegetables do a lot of waiting around. In this time that fruit and vegetables are picked and not consumed they immediately begin to experience a loss in nutrient levels. For example, green peas lose up to 51% of their vitamin C content during the first 24-48 hours after being harvested.
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Unlike fresh produce, frozen produce is generally picked at peak ripeness. This means they are at their most nutritious stage. However, once harvested this produce gets washed, blanched, cut, frozen and packaged within a few hours. Because of the special machinery available today, the processing of frozen produce is really that quick.
Some vitamins are lost during this process. But generally, freezing the fruits and vegetables helps retain nutrient content. In fact, most of the nutrient loss of frozen produce occurs during the blanching process. However this only happens with vegetables and not fruits.
The amount of nutrients lost in frozen vegetables depends on the type of vegetable and how long the blanching occurs. It can be anywhere from 10-80% of a loss. But after freezing, the nutrient levels remain stable.
In studies that compare the nutrient levels of fresh and frozen produce it’s important to note that some use freshly harvested produce – removing the impact of storage and transport time – and others use produce at supermarkets as their sample pieces. Healthline points out that this difference in processing and measuring methods can influence results positively or negatively.
Which is more nutritious?
As we’ve seen, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables both have a component of nutrient loss before they are consumed. But how do they fair against each other?
It’s actually surprisingly similar. While fresh can come out on top in some places, it falls in others. For instance, frozen produce can be said to have more vitamin C in comparison to fresh produce.
Getting your daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables is important. As a first point of call, fruits and vegetables straight from the farm or your own garden are best.
However, as this isn’t an accessible option for everybody, if you’re shopping at a supermarket it is best to remember that sometimes frozen fruits and vegetables are more nutritious.
“So if it’s a choice of eating old vegetables or no veggies at all, old veggies are fine.”– Melanie McGrice, a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
But in the end, because the difference is so small between the nutrient content of fresh or frozen produce it’s possibly best to consider the factors of convenience and price as well.
If you’re really unsure, why not try a mix of both frozen and fresh vegetables? That way you get the best range of nutrients.