Fresh or frozen

Which are better, fresh or frozen fruits and veggies?  At first it’s easy to see why fresh food makes the most sense but what if you want a specific ingredient that’s out of season or hard to find where you live?  While eating locally and in season is ideal from a nutritional and cost standpoint, there are times where you simply want something that’s out of season, like berries in your morning smoothie.

When produce is out of season, choosing frozen can mean getting more nutrients from your fruits compared to fresh.  The elements that can reduce nutrient levels in produce include:

  • Time since harvest
  • Exposure to heat, light or oxygen

Since frozen fruits and veggies are frozen within hours after harvest then kept very cold and sealed away from light and oxygen, the freezing process can lock in precious nutrients.

Here are tips for how to choose the best frozen fruits and veggies:

  • Look for produce that’s loose in the bag and still in individual pieces, not one solid chunk
  • Choose vegetables and fruits free of sauces or additives
  • Check expiration dates on the package

Before getting to the freezer, frozen fruits and vegetables are picked, quickly blanched (cooked for a short time in boiling water or steamed), and immediately frozen and packaged, generally when nutrient levels are at their highest. Frozen fruits and vegetables are processed at their peak, in terms of freshness and nutrition. This means that the vitamins and nutrients are preserved until the next time the package is open. At the end of the day, any fruits and vegetables are better than none at all. Just remember:

  • Buy fresh produce in season and buy local when possible
  • Buy non-seasonal produce frozen (if possible)
  • Even using canned fruits and veggies without added salt or sugar is also a good choice