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Frozen Vs. Fresh

Posted by terrepruitt on June 3, 2010

Frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious, if not MORE nutritious, than the vegetables you buy in the produce section.  Yup. You read that the right.  It says that you might be getting more nutrients from frozen vegetables than “fresh” vegetables. IF you are able to buy your vegetables from a local farmers market, that is where you most likely will get the most nutrient rich vegetables.  But be aware.  In our area–in and around San Jose–we have farmers markets pretty much every day of the week during the summer and it depends on WHEN the farmer has come to the bay area and when they picked their veggies.

I know that we attended one local market (and we have not been back) that was on a Sunday.  And the farmers claimed to have been in the area since Friday, and we saw them at a market on Saturday, and to tell you honestly it showed.  They vegetables had to be picked before Friday for them to have come up to the Friday market (and they could have even come to the Thursday or Wednesday Farmers Market).  It was the warm season and without refrigeration, the produce was very tired and wilted by Sunday.  As I said, my hubby and I have not actually been back to that particular market because the produce was so unappealing.  The idea of a farmers market is that you are getting FRESH produce, but when some farmers attend all the markets in the area they might not be that fresh.  The items probably were picked at the proper time, but within days they start to lose nutrients and without refrigeration they start to rapidly decay.

With produce from the grocery stores it is often harvested before it even reaches its full nutrient potential, and then once it is picked it might ripen some more but it will not have the full nutrients as it would have had it been picked after it reached its peak.  By the time produce travels to the stores and is ready for purchase it has lost a lot of its nutrient value.

The popular length of time I am seeing articles state is two weeks.  Vegetables can be picked up to two weeks before it reaches the store.  Then . . . it MIGHT not get put out for purchase right away (lets be generous and say it only sits for a day), then often times we buy it and it sits in the fridge for (lets be generous and say it sits for only two days).  That is a long time in which the vegetable is losing nutrients.  It might still LOOK pretty, but it is not a pack full of goodness as we might hope.

With vegetables that get frozen they are pick at the proper ripeness and blanched, frozen, and/or flash frozen right away so their vitamins and minerals as sealed in.  The breakdown of enzymes is halted in the process.  Supposedly in 1998 the Federal Drug Administration found that frozen vegetables have basically the same nutrient as fresh.  I cannot find anything on a government page confirming that but I can find it on a slew of other pages.

So it is quite possible that the veggies in the grocery stores frozen section have more nutrients than the produce section. Read the labels to check if anything has been added like sugar and/or salt because those are not things you would find in “fresh” veggies so you probably want to avoid them in the frozen ones too.

My plan consists of having fresh veggies, however fresh they are from the store or the local market, within the first two maybe three days of having purchased them.  I have frozen veggies in the freezer for when a trip to the store isn’t fitting into the schedule.  But it used to be that those frozen veggies would sit and get freezer burned because I thought they weren’t good enough.  But now I believe they are good, if not better, so I make sure to employ a rotation exercise, and we eat them in a reasonable amount of time.  Ya know when the schedule is tight and getting fresh ones isn’t quiet happening.  Then on the next trip to the store we get “fresh” and frozen vegetables to back into the fridge for when the schedule is tight again.  I would always rather have some sort of veggie than none at all.  And yes, that even means a canned vegetables.

14 Responses to “Frozen Vs. Fresh”

  1. I use a mix of fresh and frozen vegetables. I susscribe to a weekly organic box scheme that delivers 3 kinds of fresh fruit and 7 vegetables every Thursday. These are fairly local, and always fresh. I use them up over the weekend.
    I always keep frozen peas in stock – I actually like them better than fresh, and believe they have more nutrients.

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    • That is nice, using both fresh and frozen. I do that too. I have often entertained the idea of having veggies delivered, but I guess I prefer having my Hubby pick out our veggies. Picking out the best looking fruit that is super tasty is one of his “superpowers.’

      I don’t know HOW they differ, but I am sure the food standards in the UK differ from the states. Also produce traveling from around the US probably has further to travel than in the UK. I would imagine that your seasons are more distinguishable so you are better at practicing eating produce when it is in season. Frozen veggies would be a great supplement. Around here it seems like you can get any type of fruit ALL year round so I am not as familiar with seasons . . . and that is where the “less than full potential” comes in. If produce is being shipped from across the US it is not going to be as fresh. I need to practice seasonal produce consumption more carefully.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting. I hope to see you again.

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  2. maulpartin said

    This is very interesting. I have always thought that the veggies in the produce section would naturally have more nutrients than the veggies in the freezer section. There was always something about them being frozen that made me think that they were lower in quality and nutrients, but now after reading this I will have to reconsider!

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    • I know, huh? I had heard it before but didn’t believe it. But I also think that when I heard it we WERE eating more locally grown food. But now, roughly 10 years later, more produce is grown in other parts of North America (not even the United States) and shipped in. So I can see the logic that food picked two weeks before I am even seeing it in the store is less nutritious that flash-frozen food. I think the “problem” with frozen food for me is I tend to cook frozen food, whereas “fresh” veggies I might eat raw.

      I believe that FRESH (properly ripened and NEWLY PICKED) produce is going to be the most nutrient-rich, but it is the picked-before-its-peak-and-travelled-for-two-weeks-before-its-in-the-store produce that is being one-upped by the frozen stuff. So, if you have access to plants and trees, but all means EAT THAT. But if not maybe the best thing to do is mix it up with a VARIETY of “fresh” AND a VARIETY of frozen.

      I curtsey to you, my visitor, and I greatly appreciate your comment.

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  3. I can’t seem to cook frozen veggies so they don’t taste mushy. Same thing with fruit. I know it’s fresher, but it’s just not appealing to me. I hate to say it, but I like the can better. Maybe I should try using Jason’s steamer. Hmmm….

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    • Yeah, I understand that. I think there are certain vegetables I will eat from frozen and then some I won’t. Bell peppers—no, too mushy. Green bean, snap peas, snow peas . . . work for me.

      Have you tried different brands? I don’t know if that would make a difference or what I do sometimes is, I set them on the counter to thaw. Then by the time I cook them I cook them as if they were fresh. I don’t know if that might help.

      I still go for the “fresh” over the frozen, but I don’t feel as if I am not getting as good nutrition if I eat the frozen. I mean, I really used to think they were “bad”.

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  4. Personally I don’t purchase anything that isn’t certified organic — frozen or not. My husband and I are considering freezing our own veggies and fruits this year — we have little to no experience in any of that, so we are doing some research on it (and asking neighbors and family who do this already).

    The “cooking” of the veggies has more to do with keeping the nutrients than does whether they are frozen or fresh. If you cook the bejesus out of broccoli or asparagus all of the nutrients are gone and you’re eating broccoli or asparagus flavored mush. Lightly steaming or lightly sauteeing is the best from my experience.

    Always love your blogs, Terre. Thanks!

    Jill

    Like

    • Yes, you are soooo “good” about the organic.

      Do you know of Alton Brown? Is that his name? The guy on the Food Network that has a camera in his oven/cabinet/fridge/wherever, his show was always filmed as if the camera was looking out at him from one of those places?

      Well, on his show once he was talking about freezing berries and he said that secret to freezing things is speed. The show was a long time ago, but I believe the gist was that food gets mushing when it freezes slowly. So he was saying (with the strawberries at least) to use dry ice. Even though the chemical of it wouldn’t get in your food I don’t know if you would want to be subjected to handling dry ice (one does not handle it with the bare hands obviously . . . but . . . still).

      That is one of the reasons they state that veggies frozen commercially are “good” is because of the “flash-freezing”. That is how they can stay “crispy” and not get mushy.

      Yup, cooking do zap most veggies nutrients. The longer you cook it the more you zap. So imagine cooking produce that has been sitting around for 18 days. We probably don’t get 1/4 of the nutrients from it that we think we are getting. In my brief research one food that gets better for you as you cook it is tomatoes.

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  5. Michele said

    Stopping by to say hi and mmmmm frozen peas, corn, edamame – so easy and quick too! I am with you a mix of fresh and frozen is the way to go!

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    • Thanks for stopping by.

      I would always prefer fresh, but sometimes I require the convenience of frozen. I was just happy to hear it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I had thought I would be getting LESS nutrients, but “they” say not.

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  6. suzicate said

    I avoid canned vegetables unless necessary to use them. I try to buy fresh, but have no problem using frozen. Often, I will buy at peak of season and freeze them myself. Informative post, thanks.

    Like

    • That is awesome that you freeze them yourself. That way you KNOW what is in them. Perfect. Do you try to eat them within a certain timeframe? Do you find that they freeze well? What all do you freeze?

      I have a friend that is interested in freezing her own veggies.

      Love it when you drop by SuziCate! Thank you!

      Like

  7. suzicate said

    When freezing corn on the cob, you can cut it off and blanch it first, however last year someone informed me of an easier way. Remove the silk from the cob and rewrap the husk around the ear and freeze in ziplocks. Cooks as fresh as if you’d just bought it, even after being in the frezer a full year! I dice onion, celery, and pepper for stirfry and soup.I do not blanch these. I freezed any kind of bean and squash. And broccoli. I do blanch the beans, squah, and broccoli. I’ve never frozen potatoes.

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