Fresh VS Frozen Vegetables – What’s The Difference?

 

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, more is certainly better. With the latest nutrition research from the UK suggesting TEN (versus 5) servings of fruits and vegetables daily in reducing risk of early death and chronic illness, many people may be wondering how to work them all in.(1) Despite popular belief, frozen vegetables can be equally, if not more, nutritious than fresh vegetables depending on when fresh produce is used after purchase.  Frozen vegetables tend to be packaged at their peak of freshness.  If stored for short periods of time in well controlled temperatures, frozen vegetables may be more nutritious than fresh, which may lose up to 75% of their vitamin C content within a week of being harvested.  This is true of vegetables such as green beans and spinach.(1)

The University of Georgia in conjunction with the Frozen Food Foundation conducted a study comparing nutrient content in commonly consumed fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. Storage and consumption habits and nutrient composition were compared for blueberries, strawberries, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, green peas and spinach, which are some of the most popular among consumers. The produce was evaluated under 3 conditions- fresh (on day of purchase), frozen, and fresh stored after 5 days of purchase.  Research indicates consumers may store fruits and vegetables at least 5 days after purchase.  The study found that content of folate, vitamin A and C of some frozen fruits and vegetables was higher than stored fresh fruits and vegetables.  This was true for carrots, green peas and green beans.  Researchers theorize that nutrients degrade with prolonged refrigerator storage. Compared to fresh produce that’s been stored for longer than 7 days, frozen broccoli, green beans, spinach, green peas and carrots experience less vitamin C loss.(2)

Frozen vegetables are considered nutritionally-superior to canned vegetables. Vitamin C losses are higher in canned carrots and beets compared to frozen. Canned broccoli may lose up to 80% of its vitamin C content, compared to 50% in frozen broccoli.  Frozen green peas and asparagus typically suffer lower nutrient losses as they are more resistant to processing than other vegetables.(3, 4) Frozen vegetables offer consumers convenience and savings as they are less likely to perish and be thrown away if not consumed.  How much yellowing broccoli have you tossed out?  Keeping a variety of frozen vegetables on hand offers more diversity in and individual’s diet, making it easier to get 10 a day.

Here is a list of our top 10 most palatable frozen vegetables that we always use up every time we buy:

  1. Peas
  2. Carrots
  3. Corn kernels
  4. Spinach
  5. Winter squash
  6. Lima beans
  7. Cauliflower
  8. Broccoli
  9. Brussels sprouts
  10. Green beans

Best ways to reheat frozen vegetables:

  1. Microwave 3 to 5 minutes or according to package directions
  2. Steam on stove in steamer basket with boiling water underneath until heated through
  3. Reheat in saute pan with a little broth or water and cover
  4. Bake in oven in covered casserole for about 10-20 minutes; this is a great idea when you are baking chicken or fish. It is not advisable for green vegetables that would lose their color such as broccoli and asparagus.

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

References:

  1. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316022.php
  2. http://www.mealtime.org/resources/canned-food-and-nutrition/documents/nutritional-comparison.aspx?siteLocation=823a8375-678e-42ee-8068-37999fdc562f
  3. http://www.frozenfoodfacts.org/researchers/new-frozen-food-foundation-study-highlights-nutrient-profile-frozen-fruits-and-vegetables
  4. Rickman, J., Barrett, D.M., Bruhn, C., Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1: vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds.  Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 87:930–944 (2007).

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