Not sure about you, but I like the idea of the convenience of frozen fruit and veg, and I do use them, but it always feels like the fresh versions are just that bit more healthy.
So just how fresh are frozen fruit and vegetables and should you (and me!) be using them more?
At the point of picking, or harvesting, most fruits and vegetables that are destined for the frozen aisles of the supermarket are blanched, boiled or steamed within a couple of hours of being harvested. That sounds pretty good …..
So let’s compare fresh fruit and vegetables. A recent study* has shown that fresh fruit and veg can lose up to 45% of its essential nutrients whilst travelling from the farm to destination (your kitchen) on a journey time that averages a staggering 16 days. In addition the produce can be exposed to pesticides, light and heat on this journey further affecting the nutritional value. On top of this, many fresh produce are harvested before they are ripe, allowing ripening during transportation.
Frozen produce is typically harvested at peak ripeness. Peak ripeness just happens to be the point at which produce is the most nutritious. But frozen produce is not perfect, with some nutrients beginning to break down when stored for a more than a year.
Nutrients (in vegetables only as fruit is not blanched) can be lost during the blanching process, such as antioxidents, vitamin C and b vitamins. This process however is important as it prevents loss of colour, flavour and texture and kills any harmful bacteria. It can lose up to 80% of the nutrients although averages out at around 50%.
This sounds bad for the frozen fruit brigade but ….. a report found that fresh produce nutrients decline to levels lower than frozen varieties after 3 days of refrigeration, this applied especially to soft fruits.
In fresh vegetables, vitamin C levels start to decline as soon as they have been harvested and this continues until consumed. Although, possibly due to continued ripening, antioxidants can increase.
Whilst some might chastise us for wanting supermarkets to stock what we want to eat all year round rather than eating local seasonal harvests, the reality is that in our busy lives, and our need to eat 10-a-day (read my blog on 9 ways to 10-a-day), actually we do want what we like all year round, to make our lives easier. Frozen fruit and veg makes it both easier and cheaper to eat produce that is out of season.
So what does this all mean? Evidence suggests that there is little nutritional difference between fresh and frozen produce. Of course the green-fingered amongst us will produce the very healthiest fruits and vegetables in their gardens or allotments with produce being harvested at peak ripeness and (hopefully) eaten as soon as possible. But for everyone else, and those of us looking for convenience, then frozen produce is certainly a cost effective alternative.
Checkout larger supermarkets or online grocery stores for the widest range of frozen fruit and vegetables. You will be surprised what you can get hold of.