Eat Your (Frozen) Veggies

by | Mar 11, 2024 | Nutrition, Real Food

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Find out why you might find the healthiest and most economical veggies in the frozen foods aisle.

Freezing is a preservation method that often escapes the typical categorization of processed foods. Unlike some frozen foods that are ultra-processed, with extensive ingredient lists and high sodium levels, research has shown that frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh, and in some cases, more. Let’s explore the reasons behind this surprising fact.

Fruits and vegetables are typically frozen at their peak ripeness, a time when they are most nutrient-packed. The freezing process, which involves rapid cooling and minimal processing, helps lock in vitamins, minerals, and other healthful nutrients. In contrast, fresh produce are typically harvested before reaching full ripeness to withstand the journey to grocery stores, and they often lose nutrients during transportation and storage.

Moreover, frozen produce does not require the added preservatives often found in canned or dried foods. This absence of added sugars and chemicals makes them a healthier choice.

Frozen fruits and vegetables can be more economical, especially when considering their longer shelf life compared to fresh produce. This not only reduces food waste, but also ensures that you have access to their nutrients year-round, whatever the season. The convenience of frozen produce, which is pre-cleaned and often pre-cut, further adds to its appeal, saving time in meal preparation.

From an environmental perspective, frozen fruits and vegetables can be a more sustainable option. By reducing food waste and providing out-of-season produce without the need for long-distance transportation, they have a lower carbon footprint. Furthermore, freezing allows for the consumption of fruits and vegetables that are grown locally but not available fresh year-round. This supports local agriculture and reducing the reliance on imported goods.

Certain varieties of frozen produce are particularly notable for retaining their nutritional quality and being cost-effective. Berries, for example, are packed with antioxidants and freeze exceptionally well. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale also freeze well and are great for smoothies or cooking. Other great choices include peas, corn, mixed vegetables, and broccoli.

Some cooking tips to consider with frozen veggies—don’t overheat, and add lemon. Defrost fruit on the counter, or lightly steam or microwave to best preserve nutrients. Squeezing a lemon over veggies after heating them can help replenish any lost Vitamin C.

To sum it up, frozen fruits and vegetables offer a nutritious, cost-effective, and convenient alternative to their fresh counterparts. They provide a practical solution to enjoying a variety of produce year-round, while also supporting sustainable practices. Next time you navigate the frozen food aisle, consider these frozen treasures as a valuable addition to your diet.

Emily Rhodes, MPH, RD

Emily Rhodes, MPH, RD

Position

Emily Rhodes, MPH, RD, our Food and Nutrition Writer, is a Registered Dietitian and Clinical Nutrition Manager at Keck Medicine of USC in Arcadia, CA. You can find her at the barn or in the grocery aisle reading a label.

References:

  1. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Some Industrial Chemicals. Lyon (FR): International Agency for Research on Cancer; 1994. (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, No. 60.) Ethylene. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507450/
  2. Bouzari, A., Holstege, D., & Barrett, D. M. (2015). Vitamin Retention in Eight Fruits and Vegetables: A Comparison of Refrigerated and Frozen Storage. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 63(3), 957–962.doi:10.1021/jf5058793
  3. https://www.eatright.org/food/planning/smart-shopping/frozen-foods-convenient-and-nutritious#:~:text=Generally%2C%20frozen%20foods%20retain%20their,time%20while%20freezing%20preserves%20nutrients.
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/30/health/frozen-fruit-vegetables-drayer-food/index.html
  5. https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/healthy-eating/weight-mgmt/the-pros-and-cons-of-frozen-foods/

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