Fresh vs Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: Which Is Healthier?

Fresh vs Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: Which Is Healthier?

You’re at the frozen fruit and veg section when you wonder whether the frozen raspberries are just as healthy as their fresh counterparts.

The battle between fresh and frozen fruits often results in a round of shrugs because no-one is 100% certain. So to help you on your next shop, we’ve finally discovered the answer.

Read on to find out!

How Do We Even Get Our Fresh Fruit and Veg?

A majority of fresh fruit and vegetables are picked before they’re ripe so they can ripen during transportation.

During this time, the healthiest fruit and veg can develop the essential vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants our bodies need to function. The average transportation time in the US falls between three days to several weeks where the fresh produce is kept in a chilled, controlled atmosphere, and treated with chemicals to prevent them from spoiling.  

It’s important to note that some products, like apples and pears, can be stored for 12 months under controlled conditions before hitting our favorite store’s shelves.

When we’re browsing the fresh produce in our grocery store, the fruit and vegetables may spend one to three extra days on display.  Once we buy them, in some cases, they sit in our fruit bowls up to a week before eating.

Got It! But What About Frozen Fruits and Veg?

In the frozen fruit vs fresh fruit debate, we must consider whether the produce loses any nutrients when it’s being prepared for transportation.

Fruit and vegetables destined for the frozen section are handpicked at peak ripeness when they’re most nutritious.  They are then washed, blanched, cut, frozen and packaged over the next few hours.

In case you’ve never heard of it, blanching involves plunking the vegetables (fruit don’t undergo this procedure) in boiling water for a few minutes.  This is to kill off harmful bacteria and ensure its flavor, color, and texture stays the same as when it’s fresh.

Instead of blanching, the fruit gets treated with ascorbic acid (part of the vitamin C family) or sugar is added to prevent spoiling.

Are Any Nutrients Lost During the Blanching Process?  

The results depend on the type of vegetable and how long it’s been blanched.  One study showed that blanching reduced antioxidant activity in green peas by 30% and in spinach by 50%.

Alongside antioxidants, the study also showed blanching reduces B-vitamins and vitamin C.  But it’s important to note that nutrient levels remain stable once frozen.

But What About When the Produce Hits the Shelves or Freezer?

Before you Google “are frozen fruits healthy?” know that fresh produce loses their moisture the moment after harvesting so they have a greater risk of spoiling.

We must also consider how different vegetables react.  For example, green peas can lose up to 51% of their vitamin C within 48-hours after harvesting.  

But before you give up on frozen fruit and veg, know that antioxidants like carotenoids and phenolics increase.  One study showed that one type of blueberry had a 29% increase in antioxidant activity after 3-weeks in cold storage. 

Further, another study showed that the vitamin C content in corn, green beans, and blueberries was higher in frozen samples while the content in strawberries, carrots, spinach, and broccoli was the same as fresh produce.

So Which Is Better – Fresh or Frozen Produce?

If you Google, “what is the healthiest fruit?”, you’ll find that amongst many suggestions, grapefruit ranks very highly.

But you may live in a cold climate where you can’t enjoy one of the most nutritious citrus fruits.  Don’t be scared to reach for a tin of grapefruit as canning locks in the nutrients at its peak of freshness.  Not to mention their long shelf life!

IQF foods (otherwise known as individually quick-frozen food) are similar but have a shorter storage life than canned. 

You should consume your frozen vegetables within 8-months of purchase and eat frozen fruits within 12 months of purchase. But, it’s important to note, that frozen citrus fruit must be eaten within 4 to 6 months.

Also frozen and canned produce can be more economical depending on the season and the specific type of fruit or vegetable. Let’s be honest, we’ve sometimes missed the expiry date on our fresh produce because we’ve forgotten about it.  But if it was frozen, there’s less chance we’d have wasted it.

For example, studies comparing fresh produce with frozen, including carrots, spinach, and broccoli, found the antioxidant activity and nutrient content to be similar.  So even if nutrients decrease, it’s not by much.

So frozen fruit and vegetables are great if you’ve got a busy lifestyle and find your fresh produce spoils before you have time to consume them.

Here’s Our Advice

We all know how important a balanced diet is and how it must include a variety of fruits and vegetables.  If you’re worried about nutrient value, then fruit and vegetables straight from your garden will be the highest quality. 

But if you shop in a supermarket, refrain from putting that frozen bag of spinach back in the freezer,  It’s good to have a range of products especially if you live somewhere where it’s difficult to keep your favorite veggies from spoiling.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are convenient so to ensure you’re not skipping out on any valuable nutrients, have a mix between fresh and frozen produce.    

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