Is Fresh Really Better Than Frozen?
There is a common belief among consumers that “fresh is best” when it comes to buying fruit and vegetables but how much better is fresh produce compared to what is available in the frozen section of our supermarkets? The truth is that numerous studies have shown there is little difference between the nutritional value of fresh vs frozen fruit and vegetables and that both are excellent choices for a healthy and varied diet. The real difference between fresh and frozen produce comes from issues around preference, convenience, food miles (the distance food travels before reaching our shelves) and availability.
How Fresh Is Fresh?
The nutrient value of fruit and vegetables is really dependent on the time between harvesting and consumption. Since frozen vegetables are frozen within hours of being picked the nutrient levels are retained right up until it is time to cook them, unlike some fresh vegetables which may have been sitting in storage for weeks or months before they end up in your shopping bag. Frozen vegetables may undergo a blanching process which can cause some loss to the water soluble vitamins but these losses are considered negligible to their overall nutritional value.
When buying fresh produce it is important to choose locally grown, in season foods, as this minimises transportation and storage time before the produce hits the shelf. Less food miles and storage time means the produce is fresher and of a higher nutritional quality. Grocery stores will often stock the same varieties of fruit and veg all year round, however if the product is out of season locally it means it has been imported, thus transported and stored for a great time, or has been kept in cold storage since the previous season. Frozen fruit and veg may be a better alternative if you wish to buy out of season produce.
Which Should I Choose?
Whether you choose fresh or frozen vegetables really depends on personal preferences and circumstance. Frozen vegetables may not always retain the flavour of fresh vegetables and often have a different consistency once cooked. It’s important to remember that how we cook our food has an impact on its nutritional value as well. Cooking methods such as boiling vegetables will cause nutrients to leech into the water (which we then throw away) and therefore greatly reduces their nutritional value regardless of whether the vegetables were fresh or frozen.
Frozen vegetables may be a more convenient option for people as they keep for much longer and are less likely to spoil. Fresh produce is more likely to spoil and end up contributing to food waste if not consumed shortly after purchase. Some studies have found that people who buy frozen fruit and vegetables are more likely to consume their fruit and veg compared to those who buy fresh produce. Frozen produce may also be cheaper and more accessible for many people, making it a more attractive option.
At the end of the day it all comes down to what works best for you.
Written By Katherine Ramsden, Nutritionist
Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programs, private dietetic consultations, children’s nutrition & dietetics, school nutrition and Corporate Wellness programs. If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.