Frozen vs. Fresh

June 1, 2009

By Kelly Drager, BSc, BPE, RD
Kelly is the Nutrition Coordinator at Talisman Centre

                 [ Note: This article comes with a companion video - see bottom of page. ]

Q. "I am struggling to get the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetable servings in a day. Some weeks when I am really motivated I go and buy produce for the week and later end up with a crisper full of rotting, slimy vegetables. Is frozen produce a healthy option? I have heard that there are fewer nutrients than fresh?"

A. Freezing is preserving – it preserves the nutrients as well. Prior freezing most of the vegetables are blanched – a process that stops enzymes in the food from continuing to break down the product. Fruits do not go through this process and are typically washed and then frozen. Blanching is a very quick process where the vegetable is either steamed or placed in boiling water. The nutrient content of produce will vary based on many reasons apart from whether it is fresh or frozen.

  1. Cooking method: Certain water soluble vitamins amounts are considerably reduced by boiling your veggies. Stick to steaming, which is far superior to boiling vegetables for taste and nutrient retention. Use the minimum amount of water possible – to limit the contact of the produce to the water. You want the vegetable to be crisp not soggy or mushy. For frozen vegetables no need to defrost before steaming.
  2. Peeling: You guessed it, many nutrients are skin‚Äźdeep. Wash, but no need to peel.
  3. The nutrient itself: Losses vary widely depending on the type of food and chemical structure of the nutrient. Some vitamins are more sensitive or stable to processing and preparation methods than others, and might also be affected by other chemical compounds in the food. Nutrients other than vitamins (minerals and antioxidants) are not significantly affected by the freezing process or preparation methods.
  4. Delivery and storage: Consider the time it takes ‘fresh’ produce to travel to Calgary –Pink Lady apples coming from Chili or the asparagus transported from Peru. Some nutrients will start to decrease as soon as the produce is picked. And during storage the temperature, light, oxygen levels, moisture, pH, and length of exposure also have an impact on vitamin retention.

Don’t stress too much about it – getting a variety or fresh, raw, cooked, frozen will accommodate for those nutrients lost from one method or another. Bottom line – frozen veggies and fruit should not be on the bottom of your list! Choose locally in season fruits and veggies when available. Have on hand some frozen options that can be used in hot dishes, smoothies and desserts. No time excuses here – most frozen produce comes washed, sliced or diced.

Related links:

  • Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: List of Alberta grown crops: commercial
  • Canadian Produce Marketing association: Storing fruits and vegetables

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