Frozen versus Fresh! Which is better?

frozen red currants

(Healthcastle.com) For years frozen was a dirty word. But does it deserve it's bad rap? Read on to find out how and when to choose fresh or frozen fruits and veggies. 

Fresh is best?

Fresh fruits and veggies are traditionally the most nutritious- they haven't been processed so they should have the most vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, right? 

This depends on the time of year. When a fruit or veggie is in season, or doesn't travel very far, fresh will be your best pick. Most fruits and veggies lose nutrients over time, so local or in season (or both!) are the keys to being the best nutritional bet. Remember they also can sit for up to a month in the store depending on the food, so farmer's markets or local roadside farm stands if you have them around. When fruit is grown out of season, or shipped a long ways it loses nutrients and is likely a little less nutritious, not to mention less tasty, than frozen fruits and veggies. 

Good fruit picks: Berries in late summer, apples in the fall and winter, citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits in the winter. 

Good veggie picks: kale and butternut squash in the winter, fresh local lettuces and herbs in the summer, asparagus in the spring. 

Frozen- the peak of freshness? 

Frozen fruits and vegetables are actually incredibly healthy, and are a great pick in the winter to keep your plant food intake up when fresh fruits and veggies are less tasty and more expensive.

Recent research has shown that the vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content of frozen is comparable to fresh. Some fruits and vegetables are blanched in hot water before being frozen, so small amounts of nutrients are lost this way. But they're also picked at their peak of freshness, and flash frozen which preserves the nutritional goodness. In the off season, fruits and vegetables tend to be picked while they're under-ripe to help preserve them during shipping which makes them less nutritious. Processing of frozen foods has improved greatly over the years, so the damage has become very little. Not too mention it is much more flavourful than out of season fresh fruits and veggies. 

Skip the frozen veggies that have salt and preservatives or sauces added. Stick with ingredient lists that are pretty much just fruits and veggies for the healthiest picks. 

My favourite winter fruit fix? Making a berry breakfast bowl the night before, and waking up to a fresh, flavourful, and defrosted delight the next morning. Add one cup of frozen mixed berries to a bowl. Top with 3/4 cup greek yogurt and 2 tbsp of chia seeds, cover and stick in the fridge while you sleep. Doesn't get much easier than that, and it's so nice to wake up to something so light and fresh on a winter morning. 

Do you use frozen fruit or veggies in the winter or stick to fresh? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.