Is Fresh Produce Really Better than Frozen?
Is Fresh Produce Best?
When we decide to start eating a healthy diet, often we start by stocking up on lots of fresh produce. While this is a great way to kick off healthy habits, sometimes we make these purchases with good intentions – thinking we are going to make all of our meals fresh – but by the end of the week our healthy, fresh, food has been left to rot in the bottom of the crisper. That’s a lot of food and money that has been wasted. Fresh produce has many wonderful health benefits but consuming it frozen could also be a reasonable option. We might think though that we are not getting the same benefits if we consume it in this way. The question then is, if fresh produce is really better than frozen?
Nutritionally speaking, yes and no. While it may seem like fresh produce is more nutritious than frozen, this isn’t necessarily always the case. Many times fresh food that you might find in your grocer has been harvested under-ripe because of the length of time it will take to get to the grocer and to you. When it is harvested from the farm under-ripe, the produce may not have met its full peak of nutrition. By the time it is taken from the farm to a storage facility, then loaded on another truck to be taken to a grocer (that could be over 1,000 miles away), the produce starts to ripen. Once it reaches your grocers’ shelves it may sit there for a couple days before being purchased. By the time you take it home, it may sit on your shelf for a couple more days, losing more and more nutrients along the way as it goes through this process. If the items are coming from out of the country, then even more time and steps are added.
Frozen produce, however, is typically harvested at its peak and flash frozen immediately to seal in nutrients. Frozen items typically retain their nutrients more so than fresh items purchased from a store. However, the caveat is that if fresh produce is purchased from a local farmer’s market or farm, and the produce item is in season locally where you’ve purchased it, it won’t need to go through all the steps mentioned above and can go straight to your home for consumption. In this case, the fresh produce would be more nutritious.
It’s More About Quality
The difference between fresh and frozen produce is really more of a matter of quality and purpose of consumption. If planning to eat your produce in its raw form, for example, then fresh may be a better choice. Biting into a fresh strawberry just tastes better than biting into a frozen one. If you are going to cook it or use it in a recipe, (like a smoothie), then frozen may be just as good. Freezing can change the flavor of items as opposed to consuming them fresh but the nutrients will still be there.
Produce in Any Form is Still Good
The take home message is that when shopping for fresh produce, choose those items that are in season locally to where you live. You can take some home to eat right away and freeze some to be stored away for later in the year when they are no longer in season. No matter which way you prefer to purchase it, consuming produce through either method will still provide you with healthful nutrients and is always a good choice.