Head to Head: Frozen vs. Fresh Produce
By Genevieve Smith
It’s the debate of the century: frozen vs. fresh vegetables. Just kidding, but wouldn't it be nice if that was our only debate? In reality, this is a topic of conversation among the nutritionally-minded. While many in the food industry tout the benefits of frozen produce, claiming that the process preserves ultimate freshness, some argue that nothing beats true fresh. Let’s put these contenders head to head.
The Fan Favorite: Fresh
Fresh fruits and vegetables just have a good reputation, plain and simple. And sometimes, they’re easier to cook. Plus, you can’t eat frozen produce raw very easily, now can you? Something to keep in mind, as Dr. Dillner, head of BMJ Group Research and Development, points out is that fresh vegetables may not be as fresh as they seem. Factors to keep in mind are time spent in transportation to the grocer, sitting on the shelf, and finally waiting to be eaten. Of course, if you live in an agricultural area with quick access to fresh produce (truly fresh!) that’s another story. Even then, produce begins losing moisture quickly once harvested.
The Underdog: Frozen
Frozen produce has the benefit of convenience. It’s pre-chopped. It’s waiting for you in your freezer. Totally ready. When. You. Want it. You can’t beat that for modernity, right? In the 1920s, Clarence Birdseye, the man determined to bring frozen foods to your door, picked up the flash freezing process from the Inuits of Alaska, who went to preserving their fish immediately after catching. The process protects the integrity of taste, as cell-damaging ice crystals don’t have time to form. These days, most producers blanch veggies first before flash freezing, but it continues to be a chemical-free process. Some in the industry argue that freezing immediately after harvest halts the rotting process in its tracks and preserves produce in its prime.
Head to Head
Ali Bouzari and a group of colleagues at the University of California conducted a study to try to put the debate to rest. Eight varieties of fruits and vegetables were placed head-to-head, fresh against frozen counterpart, with their nutrient levels put to the test. Tested were corn, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries and blueberries. Was the clear winner fresh, which avoids dramatic temperature changes, but swiftly loses moisture once harvested and slowly gets descended upon by microbes and enzymes? Or did frozen come in for the win, with its mix of old world technology and new world convenience? Drum roll please. The winner is: They’re equal. Well, sort of. As it turns out, the nutrient levels (that is, vitamins and minerals) are relatively the same between the two contenders, with occasions where certain produce had nominally higher levels of vitamins in frozen form, and others had insignificantly higher levels in fresh form. Voila! Who needs to fight, anyway? Let's hear it for food equality.
To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.