Fresh vs. frozen — what is the healthier option when you are out buying fruits and vegetables? Based on appearance and taste, you might take a guess and say fresh produce is healthier.
In reality, most nutrition experts agree that frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as good for your health. When looking into the research, some findings suggest that they might even outdo fresh produce in terms of specific nutrients.
For example, one study from the United Kingdom suggested that antioxidant levels may be a bit higher in frozen produce compared to their fresh counterparts. It is said that improvements in freezing techniques have helped retain nutrients.
Overall, there is no clear "winner" between fresh and frozen produce, according to Ali Bouzari, who runs Pilot R+D, a culinary research and development company in Sonoma County, California.
In many cases, the difference in nutritional value is not strong enough to have a significant impact on your health. "It really depends which plant you’re talking about," he told the New York Times.
When it comes to nutrients like fiber and minerals — such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron — their content largely remains the same whether you get them from fresh or frozen produce.
"Minerals like iron are almost bulletproof, and the fiber doesn’t care at all whether it’s heated or frozen," said Bouzari, who conducted a study in 2015 to confirm this with eight fruits and vegetables.
Stocking up on frozen produce can encourage you to follow a healthful dietary pattern when you are on a budget. They can also last for longer periods, making them available to use when the fruit or vegetable is not in season.
Lindsey Pfau, a registered dietitian and owner of Rise Up Nutrition, told Bicycling about using the right cooking method. You may slightly lose out on vitamins if you boil vegetables in a large amount of water.
While steaming is a better option, Pfau recommends sautéing frozen and thawed vegetables with the help of olive oil. You may also opt for blanching, roasting, or baking them, she added.
One potential disadvantage with frozen products? The prepackaged sauces and seasoning can be hidden sources of sugar and sodium if you are not careful. "I recommend getting just the frozen vegetable or a blend of vegetables, and avoiding flavorings," Pfau said.
The bottom line is that you can feel free to use either option or mix both of them up — there is nothing to write off here aside from added sugar and high sodium content. Simply keep in mind that a diet based on fruits and vegetables, no matter the state you purchase them in, is better than a diet largely made up of ultra-processed foods.
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