A QUICK GUIDE ON FRESH AND FROZEN FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
If I ask you to imagine healthy food, the answer is unanimous: fresh fruit and vegetables. Depending on the season, one might mention a juicy watermelon, crunchy carrots, watery celery or zingy lemons, neatly placed in an organised fridge, ready to be used for a colourful salad. This is normal, when you think about the 5-a-day and other campaigns that are teaching us the importance of fruit and vegetable intake. But what about frozen fruit and veggies, why don’t we think about them?
Although frozen produce has many advantages (both nutritionally and in terms of storage), their consumption is quite low compared with fresh, and continues to decrease. It’s time to analyse and rethink what we know about fresh and frozen fruit and veg. Let have a look at the differences and benefits of both.
Research done by the University of Chester and Leatherhead Food Research, found that 66% of fresh fruit and vegetables show a loss of antioxidants, such as polyphenols, vitamin C, beta carotene and lutein, compared to frozen.
Due to the high water content of fruit and vegetables (generally around 90%), soon after harvest, the produce shows accelerated respiration, causing moisture loss and increasing the rate of spoilage. They continue to lose nutrients as they are picked, packed and transported (sometimes a very long way across different countries) to the supermarket. By the time they reach your plate, how many nutrients are left?
THE BENEFITS Obviously, fresh fruit and veg are more visually appealing, and often taste better than frozen varieties. Minimal preparation and the ability to be eaten raw plays a huge role in the amount we consume, directly impacting our positive eating choices. A visit to the local farmer’s market can reduce time spent in storage, which will increase the flavour and vitamin count.
1.To keep vegetables fresher for longer in the fridge, store them on a separate shelf away from fruit.
2.For salad, start to experiment with different types of leafy greens like rocket, lettuce, chicory and watercress. Adding additional fresh herbs, like parsley and coriander will help boost flavour and increase nutrients.
3.For veg, steaming is a great option to help keep essential nutrients and vitamins. If you don’t have a steamer, I really encourage you to get one, it is very cheap and last forever.
4.While heating veg destroys some nutrients, it can make it easier for your body to absorb others and taste great. The best way to avoid missing out on nutrients is to mix-it-up between raw, steaming, blanching and roasting.
Research done by the University of Georgia found that frozen produce retained more nutrients, compared to fresh produce. This is because the produce is usually blanched and then frozen (or snap frozen) soon after harvest, putting the naturally occurring enzymes on hold (which are responsible for the spoiling). In this way higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants are locked in, compared to fresh varieties.
Let’s see an example. In a study of fresh green peas, they lost up to 51% during the first 24-48 hours and continued to degrade steadily. Interestingly, prolonged storage (one year) at -18 to -20 degrees can average at around 20-50% nutrient loss.
THE BENEFITS Frozen produce is often the cheapest option, require zero preparation and is quick to cook, and you can store it for months in the freezer. This gives you an opportunity to eat a bigger quantity of fruit and veg, particularly during winter or when not available locally. Frozen can also be a time-saver solution for a nutrient-rich morning smoothie or an evening stir-fry.
1.Some frozen fruit and vegetables contain added sugar, salt or additives, so read the label carefully before buying.
2.Prolonged boiling can remove many important nutrients, as they exit into the water. Instead, try to blanch them to preserve natures goodness (remember that frozen veggies are already blanched, so don’t overdo it). How to blanch: Bring a pot of water to the boil (with a pinch of salt) and then throw in your veggies in. Keep checking until defrosted and tender (only a few minutes), then immediately transfer to ice water and drain.
3.Frozen peas are the easiest, simply run them under warm water until completely thawed. This helps keep them firm and delicious.
The most important aspect for both fresh and frozen is to ensure that no added ingredients or preservatives are present, which is where organic and local produce can help. Organic produce has been proven to contain similar amounts of nutrients as non-organic produce; however, the key benefit is fewer pesticides, no genetically modified components and no synthetic chemicals.
In summary, start to look at both supermarket aisles, all fruit and veggies are great for our bodies and are the healthiest foods available for us to eat. Get your 5-a-day by combining fruit and veg from organic, local, regional, supermarket, farmers market, fresh, and frozen sources according on where you are at on your journey and budget.
Li, L. Pegg, R. Eitenmiller, R. Et al. (2017). Selected nutrient analyses of fresh, fresh-stored, and frozen fruit and vegetables. Journal of food composition and analyses, 59, pp.8-17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfca.2017.02.002
Connell, P. Finkelstein, S. Scott, M. Vallen, B. (2018). Negative associations of frozen compared to fresh vegetables. Appetite, 127, pp.295-302. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.05.134
Bouzari, A. Holstege, D. Barrett, D. (2015). Vitamin retention in eight fruit and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 63(3), pp.957-962. DOI: 10.1021/jf5058793
Bonwick, G. Birch, C. (2013). Antioxidants in Fresh and Frozen Fruit and Vegetables: Impact Study of Varying Storage Conditions. http://bfff.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Leatherhead-Chester-Antioxidant-Reports-2013.pdf
Szeto, Y., Tomlinson, B., & Benzie, I. (2002). Total antioxidant and ascorbic acid content of fresh fruits and vegetables: Implications for dietary planning and food preservation. British Journal of Nutrition, 87(1), pp.55-59. doi:10.1079/BJN2001483.
Burden, J. Smith, K. (1989). Prevention of post-harvest food losses fruits, vegetables and root crops a training manual. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Vigar, V. Myers, S. Oliver, C. et al. (2019). A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Nutrients 12(1), pp.7. doi: 10.3390/nu12010007. PMID: 31861431; PMCID: PMC7019963.