Frozen vs. Fresh: Are You Picking the Right One?
You hear it all the time from Dr. Oz and other medical gurus: Eat more fruits and veggies.
And the USDA recommends five to nine servings each day to help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and early death.
An analysis from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London shows that participants who had 10 servings — 28 ounces — daily experienced a:
- 24% reduced risk of heart disease
- 33% reduced risk of stroke
- 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- 13% reduced risk of cancer
- 31% reduction in premature death
What’s more, they estimated that if everyone followed their recommendations, approximately 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented worldwide.
Fruits and veggies that you get straight from a farm or your garden generally have the highest nutritional value.
But you might not have access to them or the time for all of that. That leaves you with getting those commodities at your local supermarket. And two of the two most common ways to buy them are…
Fresh and Frozen
You may think that there’s not much difference between the two, except than one is in the fresh produce section while the other is in the same aisle as ice cream, ready-made meals, and cook-at-home pizzas.
But that assumption isn’t exactly correct…
You see, most fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before they’re ripe, which gives them time to fully ripen during transportation.
The problem is that it also means less time to develop a full range of vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants.
Before shipping they’re washed, cooled, graded, and blanched in order to preserve the color, flavor, and texture.
And while in transport, they’re stored in a chilled, controlled atmosphere and treated with chemicals to prevent spoiling.
Most fresh produce arrives to your market several days to weeks after it is harvested. Then there’s another 1-3 days on display at the market and up to 7 days in your refrigerator before you eat them. So whatever you haven’t used by then you toss out, which is like throwing money in the garbage.
Not so with frozen fruits and veggies…
They’re picked when ripe and often washed, blanched (fruits don’t undergo blanching), cut, frozen, and packaged with a few hours. And chemicals are not usually added before freezing.
Unlike their fresh counterparts, frozen produce can be stored for months without losing nutrients. If you only use a portion, you save what’s left in a sealed bag or container and put it back in the freezer.
Frozen produce is so easy to prepare and store, you might end up eating extra servings.
Moreover, frozen is often less expensive than fresh and is available year round.
You may be asking…
What About the Nutrients?
During the time from harvesting and throughout storage, fresh vegetables and fruit can experience substantial nutrient degradation.
For instance, the vitamin C in fresh vegetables starts to decline as soon as they’re picked and continues to do so while in storage. Green peas were found to lose up to half of their vitamin C within 24-48 hours after harvesting.
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a study that analyzed four vitamins in several fruits and vegetables to evaluate the differences between fresh and frozen produce. The commodities tested were: corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries.
The researchers found that the overall vitamin content of the frozen products was comparable to and occasionally higher than that of their fresh counterparts.
The Same Can Apply to Fish…
The American Heart Association says you should eat two, 3½-ounce servings of non-fried fish per week.
The reason: The omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of seafood reduces heart inflammation, helps prevent heart rhythm abnormalities, improves the flexibility of arteries, and helps lower cholesterol.
Unless you catch it yourself, there’s no such thing as fresh, wild-caught fish. That’s because wild-caught fish is frozen to kill parasites.
However, farm-raised fish is often shipped and sold without being frozen first.
Over 85% of the seafood in our stores is imported. And although it might be labeled fresh, it could have been frozen and then thawed before being placed in the display case. That freezing-thawing process might be repeated over several days until the fish is sold.
But with flash-freezing available on fishing boats, freshly-caught fish can be frozen and processed within hours after being caught keeping it nutritionally intact and fresh longer. And it stays frozen until you thaw, open the vacuum-sealed package, and cook it at home.
On top of that, flash-frozen fish will likely be less expensive than fresh because their shelf life reduces consumer risk and company costs.
As far as taste goes, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation conducted a survey of consumer preferences for simply-baked fresh black cod and coho salmon vs. frozen. They found that the baked, frozen fish were rated superior or equal to the fresh samples.
The Bottom Line
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of fresh fruits and produce that are at our local farmers markets. But I still buy bulk frozen berries and such largely for smoothies, convenience, and cost savings.
So, the next time you’re hankering for juicy strawberries, sweet peaches, or tasty salmon, stop by the frozen food aisle and stock up.
You’ll save money, waste less, and eat some of the healthiest foods in the market.
To a richer life,
— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap