Is Fresh Best? A Dietitian’s Answer to Fresh vs. Frozen Produce
By Alyssa Kessel, RDN, LD, Expert Dietitian
Everyone knows that produce are part of a well-balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables are packed full of nutrients that can improve your health. So then why do nearly 90% of Americans fail to consume the recommended amount of vegetables? And almost 80% fail to meet dietary recommendations for fruit?
I believe this staggering statistic indicates a need to understand how to eat healthier. In my opinion, the first step is incorporating produce. Many of my clients struggle with the choice of fresh vs. frozen. Their concerns typically revolve around seasonal changes where fresh produce is either limited or expensive. While it’s easy to assume that fresh is the best, in some cases, frozen food may have more benefits. So why can this be the case?
Fresh produce: as good as it seems?
Freshly picked fruits and vegetables – whether from your garden or a local farmers market – provide some of the highest quality nutrients if consumed right away. The longer you wait to eat them, however, the more the food loses these nutrients.
Unfortunately, much of the fresh produce from your grocery store can spend days or weeks in transit from farm to store. And that’s all before it even makes its way to your refrigerator, where it can sit for a few more days before you eat them.
Frozen produce: is it nutritional?
Frozen produce, on the other hand, is often picked at peak ripeness. This means it’s still packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The produce is then snap-frozen within hours of being picked to lock in the nutrients.
Fresh vs. frozen: which is better?
Dr. Bouzari, University of California, Davis, and his team found that the freezing process can slightly alter nutritional composition of produce. Sometimes it was in favor of the frozen food, and sometimes it was in favor of the fresh. Overall, they found there’s no clear winner.
Another study compared the vitamin content in 8 different fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. These included corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries. The researchers found no consistent differences overall between fresh and frozen. They did find that the vitamin content was occasionally higher in some frozen foods. For example:
- Frozen broccoli had more riboflavin (a B vitamin) than fresh broccoli
- Frozen blueberries, green beans, and corn all had higher levels of Vitamin C than their fresh counterparts
Researchers also analyzed the amount of fiber, levels of phenolic compounds (good sources of antioxidants), and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Again, they found no significant differences between the fresh and frozen varieties.
In summary, the differences in nutrient levels between fresh and frozen are so minor they would unlikely have an impact on overall health. I encourage you to choose the fruits and vegetables that best fit your lifestyle and aim for increasing your daily intake!
Need help picking a plan?
Please fill out our online consultation form if you would like individual guidance on creating a nutrition plan that works for you. We’ll check your hormone levels first to make sure there’s no underlying issues affecting your health. Once this is done, I’ll meet with you bi-weekly in the dietitian program.
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