FRESH VS. FROZEN VEGETABLES
You always hear that ‘fresh is best’ when it comes to your vegetable choices, but is that really the case? Or can you take advantage of the longer use-by dates, and often cheaper price, of frozen or canned vegetables, and get just as much benefit?
Generally, the reason quoted for fresh vegetables being the best option of the three is that important nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are lost in the freezing and canning processes. This isn’t necessarily always the case however. The FDA and IFIC (two large food- related governing bodies) have both issued statements to say that nutrients are generally not lost in canning or freezing, and that fresh, frozen and canned vegetables tend to have similar nutritional profiles.
Prior to freezing, the vegetables are blanched in hot water for a few minutes to deactivate some enzymes that could otherwise change colour, flavour and smell, but outside of that the vegetables undergo minimal processing. Canned vegetables tend to experience slightly more processing as it is quite common for additives to be incorporated, alongside the blanching process. However, it seems that these processes are not enough to significantly reduce the nutritional value of the vegetables.
Perhaps a more important factor in the nutritional profile of vegetables before they reach your plate is how they have been cooked. Steaming appears to be the best way to cook vegetables in terms of reducing the leaching of nutritional compounds, when compared to microwaving, boiling and stir-frying. All other methods appear to lead to significant losses of nutrients during cooking. But no matter how you cook it, broccoli is always going to have a better nutritional profile than a donut… Sorry!
Ultimately the best one to buy in the supermarket is the one that you will actually eat! Whether you refuse to go beyond the fresh food aisles, max your freezer out with bags of mixed veg, or fill up your cupboards up with cans, you will gain nutritional value from eating those vegetables. Ensure to eat a wide variety of vegetables and plenty of them, and you can’t really go far wrong!