Which is better: fresh or frozen vegetables? The answer might surprise you.
If you ask anyone whether it is better to eat fresh or frozen vegetables, most people will likely choose the fresh option. But the answer is not that simple, say the experts.
Here’s more about some factors we need to consider when choosing between fresh and frozen vegetables:
Enzymes cause the high levels of nutrients in vegetables to start degrading the minute they are picked. It takes several days for fresh vegetables to reach your table after being picked. Between the farm and the supermarket they are often in cold storage, and you might keep them in the fridge for a few days before cooking them. Frozen vegetables, however, are often snap frozen when they are at their best. They go straight into your freezer after you have bought them.
Specific nutrients in vegetables
Vitamin B and vitamin C are water-soluble and sensitive to light. These are progressively lost the longer the time span between being picked and eaten . Being kept in the fridge does slow this process down somewhat. When vegetables are frozen, they are often blanched (plunged into boiling water for a short time and then put into an ice bath), which can affect the vitamin C levels. Tests have nevertheless shown that frozen vegetables often have higher vitamin C levels than fresh produce. Fat soluble vitamin A and vitamin E are not significantly affected by blanching. Mineral, fibre and protein levels are similar in fresh and frozen vegetables.
Variety of vegetables
It is always better to eat vegetables that are in season, as they are just simply fresher, cheaper, and have not languished in cold storage for ages. Eating fresh vegetables limits the variety on offer. On the other hand, frozen vegetables are available at the same price year-round.
Shelf-life of vegetables
Most fresh produce should be eaten within a day or two of being purchased, as many of them spoil quickly. Frozen vegetables eliminate this possible wastage as they can be kept for up to twelve months in the freezer. Even if they appear soggy (they might have absorbed some water in the freezer), that does not affect their nutritional value. It only affects the texture.
Correct freezing methods for vegetables
Frozen vegetables from the supermarket have already been blanched. If you are buying fresh veggies, you might consider blanching.
Reducing the air in the packaging by means of vacuum sealing also helps to reduce freezer burn.
Dating and labelling will help you later to identify the produce.
Don’t thaw and refreeze vegetables. Correct freezing will lock in the flavour, the colour and the nutrients. Vegetables can be frozen for up to 12 months. After that you can still eat them, but they won’t taste as good, and they may be somewhat less nutritious.
By Susan Erasmus
1. Dietitians Association of Australia
2. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
3. University of Minnesota
4. National Institutes of Health
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