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Frozen vs. fresh: which produce option is healthier?

September 7, 2018 (Updated: April 28, 2020)
Lily Moran

Fresh organic produce is some of the healthiest food you can eat – if not the healthiest. But millions of people don’t have year-round access to it. Some have no access at all. Canned and frozen vegetables are sometimes the only options. And it’s no secret that canned foods are loaded with added sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients, so frozen is often the best way to go.

Frozen produce is just as convenient as canned. Don’t feel like julienning your carrots? Don’t want to worry about fruits and vegetables spoiling before you eat them? Want to add a variety of vegetables to your stir fry in a matter of seconds? The freezer section has you covered!

But is frozen produce as healthy as fresh produce? Let’s discuss some FAQs that we often get about frozen produce, its place in your diet, and the best ways to prepare it.

Does frozen produce have the same nutritional value as fresh produce?

Frozen produce is actually often healthier than fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables lose nutritional value the longer they are off the branch, vine, or bush. Before you put a head of broccoli in your shopping cart, it was picked at the farm, then sold to a food distributor, then sold to a grocery store, then stored in the back room, and then placed on display when room is available.

In other words, it can take days, even weeks, for produce (even locally grown) to get from farm to plate. And that’s not including the time it sits in your refrigerator waiting for you to eat it!

On the other hand, frozen produce is usually flash frozen immediately after it’s picked. The freezing process stops it from losing its nutritional value, resulting in a healthier fruit or vegetable.

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What are drawbacks of eating frozen produce?

Frozen fruits and vegetables are very easy to overcook and to unevenly cook. Even if you only defrost them, their texture is usually changed by the freezing process. So don’t expect your frozen produce to have the same snap and crunch as fresh produce.

What are some things I should look for when I read product labels?

Always look for organic, non-GMO produce. Avoid frozen produce with added ingredients, such as vegetables with salty seasonings and sauces or fruits with added sugar.

What are some of the best ways to incorporate frozen produce in my diet?

Because frozen produce doesn’t have the pop of fresh produce, I dive into my spice rack and pantry to jazz them up. Salt, pepper, garlic, and chili flakes are just a handful of the ways that I spice vegetables. Adding a splash of lemon juice, vinegar, or other acidic components can easily brighten a frozen vegetable dish.

Dried cranberries and sliced almonds add both flavor and texture to steamed green beans. Dozens of vegetables can be tossed into pastas, casseroles and soups.

Frozen fruit is ideal to make a quick and nutritious smoothie in the morning. The Internet is full of ideas. Be creative and have fun with it.

No matter how you eat frozen produce, I’m just glad you are eating it. I can’t stress enough how important your diet is to nearly every aspect of your health. Produce – especially vegetables – is the cornerstone to a healthy diet. Mangia!

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