Frozen food often conjures up an image of questionable burger patties, peas and tubs of ice cream but is frozen produce the way of the future for healthy eating? Many people have negative associations with frozen cuisine but some recent studies suggest that we could benefit from integrating frozen produce (I’m talking fruit and vege – not Ben & Jerrys) into our diet.
We live in a world abuzz with farmers markets, “go organic” campaigns and Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute dinners so it is not surprising that public interest in frozen foods has dwindled in the last 5 years.
Polls suggest that snobbery and fear of an inferior product are the main reasons behind consumers steering clear of the freezer aisle.
But are we, the consumers, simply missing something? Are we letting our snobbery override our absorption of nutritionally dense foods?
FRESH VS FROZEN: THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN
There are conversations brewing on the interwebs that suggest our frozen produce might deliver superior levels of vitamins and minerals when compared to it’s fresh equivalent.
As reported by Scientific American in this article…
In one experiment, fresh produce was stored in a general household fridge at 4°C for up to three days. They were then compared with equivalent frozen produce stored in a domestic freezer at -20°C. The concentrations of antioxidants and other key nutritional components decreased in the refrigerated produce, and ended up lower than that found in the frozen goods.”
Another article from MedicalDaily echoes this sentiment; referencing two studies that support the theory that frozen produce may deliver a higher potency of vitamins to consumers.
In two independent studies, researchers at Leatherhead Food Research and theUniversity of Chester have determined that frozen fruit and vegetables tend to be richer in compounds like vitamin C, polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein, and beta-carotene.”
Researcher Ronald Pegg, PhD comments – as shared in this article – note that the significance of these discoveries are more relevant when examining the lasting power of nutritional quality of frozen produce when compared to it’s fresh counterpart.
Freezing in essence is nature’s pause button. It maintains freshness, slows down enzymatic reactions, increases the time it takes anything to degrade.”
The article goes on to share how in most of the study’s comparisons the day-of-purchase fresh produce was nutritionally quite similar to it’s frozen competitor but it was just 5 days later where the fresh items were shown to have lost a lot of their vitamin content (especially Vitamins A, C and folate) while the frozen alternatives had retained their levels.
One thing to note is that high-water content fruit and vege (e.g. cucumbers, mushrooms, lettuce) may not freeze as well. The higher the water content in a food the bigger the ice crystals freezing creates which can lead to greater damage in the food quality.
SO… DO YOU DITCH FRESH PRODUCE ALTOGETHER?
It seems that the biggest takeaway from the fresh vs frozen debate is that you shouldn’t turn up your nose at the frozen produce aisle any longer.
If you’re buying fresh produce to consume that evening in your latest Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meal recipe then you are probably fine going straight to your local grocer. However, if you’re doing your big weekly (or fortnightly) grocery shop and that sweetcorn is going to sit on your refrigerator shelf for a week then you might be better off buying a frozen bag and grabbing only the portion you need, when you need it.
Plus, frozen bananas make the BEST smoothies so nutritional content aside, I definitely recommend chucking those in your freezer drawer just in case 😉