Fresh vegetables versus frozen vegetables

Everyone knows that vegetables are good for you, but are fresh vegetables BETTER than frozen ones?

Vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. They are packed vitamins and minerals, disease-busting antioxidants and healthy fibre, not to mention their delicious taste and versatility! But life can get busy, and expensive, and as much as we would like to always have fresh vegetables on the table, it’s not always possible.

Frozen vegetables have a bit of a bad reputation. They are often associated with soggy peas or stinky broccoli. But the truth is that there are a lot of pro’s to using frozen vegetables: they allow out-of-season vegetables a space on your plate all year round and can be cheaper than their fresh counterparts. But are they just as healthy?

 Why fresh isn’t always better

Fresh vegetables are best when they are literally farm-fresh and picked as they ripen. It is at this stage that they offer you the best nutrition. The problem is that the majority of vegetables available to us in the shops are picked before they are ripe (and so before their nutritional peak) to keep them from going off during transport and storage. And just a few days after harvest, vegetables begin to lose some of their nutritional goodness. That’s because bright light and heat destroy some of their delicate vitamins.

What’s more, the longer they sit on the shelf, during transport, in the shop, and in your fridge, the fewer nutrients they have left to pass on to you. Just how much less? Well, as an example, if you keep spinach at room temperature for two days it can lose more than half of its vitamin C!

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 Freezing “locks in” nutrients

Vegetables that are frozen are usually picked closer to the peak of ripeness and are flash-frozen immediately after harvest. Once a vegetable is picked, it starts to produce enzymes that help it to ripen. By freezing them immediately, the ripening process is stopped, and nutrients are “locked in”. What this means for you is that frozen vegetables aren’t only just as nutritious as fresh ones, but can sometimes be even MORE nutritious!

 The best frozen vegetables are…

Foods that are best frozen are those with high amounts of fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamin A, cartenoids, and vitamin E. That’s because these vitamins aren’t lost that easily when the veggies are frozen and stored. So when hitting the frozen aisle, go for:

  • carrots
  • leafy greens
  • broccoli

Avoid vegetables with a very high water content (e.g. lettuce) as these really don’t freeze well and probably the ones giving frozen vegetables such a bad name!

How to make the most of frozen vegetables

  1. Don’t thaw frozen vegetables before using them. The longer they are frozen, the more nutritious they will stay
  2. Go easy on the temperature and cooking time. Keep your vegetables crunchy to avoid nutrients being cooked out
  3. Steam vegetables, don’t boil them. Unless you are using frozen vegetables as part of a stew, use as little water as possible. Many vitamins are water soluble and will be lost into the water before you can enjoy them.

So, no more excuses not to get your 6-a-day: whether frozen or fresh, veggies are best!

 Sources: Huffington Post, Greatist