4 Vegetables That Are More Nutritious Frozen Than Fresh
While frozen vegetables tend to get a bad rap, there are plenty of healthy frozen veggies on the market. In fact, there is a variety of produce that is more nutritionally dense when frozen, as opposed to fresh. Unfortunately, many mainstream myths claim the opposite. But thanks to innovative farmers and research-driven nutritionists, consumers are beginning to realize that certain frozen produce is more beneficial than its counterpart. Additionally, peak-season ripeness — and the technology to quickly freeze harvested produce — means that frozen vegetables not only maintain their nutritional profile, but they have a larger range of vitamins and minerals, as well. It’s a win-win.
Typically, fresh produce is picked before it is fully developed, meaning harvest time happens a few days before the vegetables reach peak ripeness. Ultimately, this means fewer days in nutrient-rich soil and energizing sunlight. Furthermore, some studies show that fresh produce can lose up to 30 percent of its nutrients during transportation. Therefore, when choosing fresh vegetables, aim for locally grown, seasonal produce, as it is likely picked closer to maturation and travels a shorter distance. That said, generally speaking, frozen vegetables are often washed, blanched and packaged within a few hours of being harvested, preserving more nutrients.
While it’s easy to find fresh carrots in the produce section year-round, studies show that carrots gain beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) when frozen. Collard greens, spinach and sweet potatoes also see an increase in provitamin A when immediately frozen, as well. Plus, frozen carrots often cost less than fresh ones and are easier to puree into soups and baby food — making them great for wintertime comfort food and busy parents.
Many frozen leafy greens — including spinach and chard — have more “fiber, folate, iron and calcium than a cup of fresh spinach,” according to EatingWell. Spinach, specifically, wilts down tremendously once cooked, so purchasing frozen spinach is also more economical. While fresh spinach is ideal in salads, frozen spinach is an ideal substitute in dips, risotto, curry, pasta and oven-baked casseroles. Furthermore, frozen spinach has more thiamine (a B vitamin that helps break down carbohydrates) than fresh.
Broccoli is one of the best vegetables to buy frozen — in fact, studies show that frozen broccoli has 400 percent more beta-carotene than fresh. Some nutrients, like vitamin C, are lost once broccoli is harvested, so the sooner it is washed, blanched, frozen and packaged, the better. For a quick dinner side, frozen broccoli can be put directly onto a baking sheet and roasted with your seasoning(s) of choice. Otherwise, boiling or steaming broccoli is known to boost its levels of antioxidants and polyphenols.
4. Green Peas
Green peas, high in vitamins K, C, and A — along with thiamine, fiber and folate — is another vegetable that is healthier when frozen. Oftentimes, a day or so after green peas are picked, they can become dull and tasteless. In essence, when they are harvested and frozen at peak ripeness, the bright color and sweetness of the peas are retained (as freezing them halts the process of turning sugars into starch). Green peas also boil very quickly and are a delicious addition to pasta salad in the spring and alfredo pasta in the winter.
While each of these frozen vegetables are inevitably more processed than their fresh counterparts, using a service like Everything Food that ranks foods based on criteria that encompasses farming practices and nutritional value will help ensure you’re choosing the highest-quality frozen vegetables as possible.
Edie Horstman is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, wellness blogger, and freelance writer. She works with health-focused brands, co-creating content in the digital marketing space. She lives in Denver, Colorado.