Picture healthy food…you likely think of fresh fruits and vegetables, all packed neatly in the fridge, ready for that inspiring smoothie, salad, stir-fry, or side dish. That’s because we all know that fruits and vegetables are great for our bodies, protecting us against a variety of health issues, and they make us feel great, too. But what about frozen fruit and veg? Why don't they spring to mind?
It’s time to rethink what we know about fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
Research into ‘Antioxidants in Fresh and Frozen Fruit and Vegetables’ by the University of Chester and Leatherhead Food Research found that 66% of cases show a loss of antioxidants in fresh fruit and veg, such as polyphenols, vitamin C, beta carotene and lutein, compared to frozen.
Another research from the University of Georgia also found that frozen produce retained more nutrients than fresh produce.
Why does fresh produce perform worse?
Generally, most fruits and vegetables are mostly water. Meaning that after harvest, the produce shows accelerated respiration, causing moisture loss, increasing the rate of spoilage.
So after they are picked, packed and transported, they continue to lose many of their nutrients in long-distance travel and storage, before they reach the supermarket, and eventually your plate.
Blanching and then freezing or snap freezing fruit and veg, moments after harvest, puts the process of naturally occurring enzymes on hold – which would normally lead to spoiling – locking in higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants, than ‘fresh’ varieties.
On a notable example: Vitamin C is the least stable nutrient, degrading immediately after harvest. In a study of fresh green peas, they lost up to 51% during the first 24-48 hours. Prolonged storage (one year) at -18 to -20 degrees resulted in an average 20-50% loss.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are great alternatives, with minimal loss of nutrients and same amount of fibre.
They also last longer than fresh, are available year-round, and tend to be cheaper and more convenient. However, be aware of those that have been chopped, peeled or crushed - they will generally be less nutritious!
The most important aspect for both fresh and frozen is to look at the overall quality of the original harvest, and ensure no added ingredients or added preservatives are present, which is where organic and local produce can help.
Organic produce has been proven to contain similar amounts of nutrients as non-organic produce. However, the key benefit is fewer pesticides, no genetically modified components, and no synthetic chemicals - linking significant health benefits tto organic food consumption.
In summary, don’t be afraid of frozen fruit and veg, which have lots of great benefits that make them an excellent addition to your shopping list. All fruits and vegetables are great for our bodies and are the healthiest foods available for us to eat!
Sources & Further Reading
Selected nutrient analyses of fresh, fresh-stored, and frozen fruits and vegetables, University of Georgia, USA, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889157517300418?casa_token=SMMkdKoAC-gAAAAA:kHcCJXYoOD1sW8jJ-_i9bxS1FWjEUEUkZ7H7SbgJfZQpUZ70rNA6f6Ghrjw31ZLHtfiZRjP9W14
Negative associations of frozen compared with fresh vegetables, Stony Brook University, USA https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666318301144?casa_token=sGdoKgdxrfkAAAAA:0juHsJtOvk5NpJt3uFEVuDLWI5FjjpoDY6acnjNBjjAtyMYtXhYVHbKU_YPYIKeFbRj96jNK4eE
Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage, University of California, USA https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25526594/
Antioxidants in Fresh and Frozen Fruit and Vegetables: Impact Study of Varying Storage Conditions:
University of Chester, UK http://bfff.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Leatherhead-Chester-Antioxidant-Reports-2013.pdf
Total antioxidant and ascorbic acid content of fresh fruits and vegetables: implications for dietary planning and food preservation: Cambridge University, UK https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/total-antioxidantand-ascorbic-acid-content-of-fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-implications-for-dietary-planningand-food-preservation/F457978920144B378888C03DEEA2885A
Prevention of post-harvest food losses fruits, vegetables and root crops a training manual:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations http://www.fao.org/3/T0073E/T0073E00.htm
Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption:
Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Southern Cross University, Australia