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Skeptical? So was I.
I always assumed fresh was better because A) it’s usually more expensive ($$$ = better…right?) and B) it’s…well, fresh!
In an interview on the mindbodygreen podcast, Rachel Drori, the founder of Daily Harvest, explains that frozen produce is not just decent to eat; it’s often more nutrient-dense and (surprisingly!) more fresh than non-frozen fruits and veggies. Mind = blown!
Why is frozen produce often more nutrient-dense and fresh?
To make frozen produce, suppliers freeze fruits and vegetables immediately after they’re harvested; this process maintains their nutrient density and preserves their freshness. Therefore, the second you thaw and/or cook them, you get to benefit from all of their nutrients! In contrast, fresh produce may not be that fresh, especially if it was transported across the country before it hit your supermarket’s shelves.
If you buy blueberries in North America when they’re in season (April to late September), they may only be 3-5 days old. (Still, not ideal.) Or, they may have taken a plane flight to arrive in your store, so they could be older than that. If you buy blueberries when they’re out of season (October to March), they may be several days, weeks, or even months old, as much of the out-of-season produce in grocery stores often is. According to Healthline:
…the USDA states that some produce, such as apples and pears, can be stored for up to 12 months under controlled conditions before being sold.
12 months?! Yikes.
We purchase fruits and vegetables for their nutrients, but how many vitamins and minerals do week-old blueberries and year-old apples actually contain? Unfortunately, not many at all.
Consider these statistics from Daily Harvest’s website:
- Blueberries have 200% more vitamin C when frozen vs fresh after 3 days.
- Cauliflower has 50% more antioxidants frozen vs fresh after 3 days.
- Spinach has 25% more vitamin E frozen vs fresh after 3 days.
When it comes to nutrient-density, frozen may be the way to go.
What about farmer’s markets?
As with most things, there is a caveat. If you buy organic, in-season produce from your local farmer’s market and consume it as quickly as possible, you will likely reap all of the nutritional benefits from those fruits and veggies.
Also, you’re supporting local farmers, which is a huge win in my book.
What if you freeze your farmer’s market produce? This is certainly an option; however, done properly, the process can be somewhat complicated and time-consuming.
Other Frozen Produce Considerations:
- It’s convenient. In his new book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?—a fabulous, easy-to-digest (pun intended!) read–Dr. Mark Hyman asserts that 3/4 of every meal should consist of veggies. This translates to: Most of us need to be eating a lot more veggies! If you keep your freezer stocked with frozen vegetables, it’s much easier to hit this healthy quota, especially after a long workday when you’re in the mood for a quick and easy meal. (So…every day for me!)
- It’s usually cheaper. Somehow, frozen fruits and veggies are more nutrient-dense and more cost-effective. Also, when they go on sale, you can stock up because they won’t spoil!
- Make sure the frozen produce you buy doesn’t have unnecessary additives like sugar and/or salt. Some companies are sneaky; they add sugar and/or salt to get you hooked on their products. Don’t fall for this trap!
- Organic still matters. Whether frozen or fresh, pesticides and herbicides are bad news!
- It lasts longer. How many times have you thrown away fresh produce that’s spoiled? I try never to do this, but it inevitably happens. When you buy frozen, you reduce waste (and guilt!).
Bottom line: Purchasing any produce (especially vegetables!)–fresh or frozen–is a step in the right direction, but it’s time to reshape our thinking about frozen fruits and veggies. Instead of shunning them for unsound reasons, stock up on these nutrient-dense, convenient, and cost-effective alternatives!
Thoughts? Questions? Please share in the comments below!
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