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Fresh or Frozen Fruits and Vegetables, Which Are Better?

Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables

If you have wondered which fruits and vegetables are more nutritious, fresh or frozen, you are not alone, as it is an often-asked question. Now, the findings of two new studies shed some light on the best ways to enjoy your blueberries and broccoli.

The fresh or frozen dilemma

The report from the two research projects, both of which were commissioned by the British Frozen Food Federation and undertaken by experts at Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Chester, found that frozen fruits and vegetables had higher levels of some vitamins and antioxidants than their fresh counterparts after the latter had been refrigerated for three days. That means unless you and your family consume the fresh produce you bring home (and assuming the produce is really fresh) within three days of purchase, chances are the frozen versions of those fruits and vegetables will provide more nutrients than the fresh ones.

The researchers conducted more than 40 tests on ten fruits and vegetables: blueberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, peas, raspberries, spinach, and sweet corn. The nutrient levels evaluated included vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein, polyphenols (a category of plant nutrients that includes more than 8,000 members), and anthocyanins (red, blue, or violet flavonoid pigments with antioxidant properties).

Although the concentrations of antioxidants were comparable in both the frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables before the latter were refrigerated for three days, some of the fresh produce concentrations declined during storage to levels below those seen in the frozen foods. This finding led one of the study’s authors, Dr. Rachel Burch of Leatherhead Food Research, to comment that “frozen can be nutritionally comparable to ‘fresh’ produce.”

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To give just a few examples:

  • Frozen carrots were better than stored fresh in 4 out of 5 categories (anthocyanins were not applicable)
  • Frozen sweet corn also fared better than stored fresh in 3 out of 5 categories (lutein and beta-carotene were not applicable)
  • Frozen raspberries were comparable to stored fresh regarding vitamin C but were better than fresh when it came to lutein, beta-carotene, and anthocyanins
  • Frozen green beans beat stored fresh in the categories of vitamin C, polyphenols, and anthocyanins, and tied in lutein, while beta-carotene was not applicable
  • Frozen blueberries fared better than fresh in vitamin C, polyphenols, and anthocyanins, while stored fresh ones were better in lutein and beta-carotene

The bottom line
This study suggests that some frozen fruits and vegetables are better than fresh that has been stored for three days, which is a reasonable amount of time consumers would keep produce before using it all. As Dr. Burch remarked, “We must disregard the mistaken opinion that ‘fresh’ food is always better for us than frozen food.” The studies did not address the topics of texture, taste, or appearance regarding fresh versus frozen.

If there is one take-home message from this study, it would be that fresh or frozen, fruits and vegetables should be an important part of every person’s daily diet. Consumers should not shy away from frozen varieties when fresh is not available or convenient.


Image: Morguefile