Fresh vs Frozen Vegetables
vs Canned Vegetables – which is best?
Hardly a day goes by when I don’t have a client ask me to compare the nutritional value of fresh vegetables versus frozen or canned ones. I’m often asked, “Which is better for me?” or “Am I sacrificing nutrition by going the cheap route and getting canned foods?”
Fresh is almost always best, but read on to find out when eating frozen vegetables is actually better for you.
First of all, most people don’t come anywhere near the recommended consumption of vegetables. I believe 9 servings of vegetables a day are recommended, so mostly, I’m just glad people get them in at all. That said, here are some guidelines to consider 2 when choosing the healthiest vegetables:
1. Fresh is almost always best. Raw vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes and phytochemicals that are extremely beneficial to our health. Quite frankly, you really can’t eat enough vegetables!
The problem exists when vegetables are shipped long distances from growers on the other side of the world to grocery stores near us. Because vegetables are picked weeks — or even months — before they show up on your grocery store’s shelves, much of the vital nutrition they contained has been destroyed and the health benefits are minimal, at best.
Some foods are even irradiated to kill bacteria and to delay ripening. Again, this is harmful to the vegetable, as it devitalizes the nutrient capacity and really doesn’t do a lot for our health.
When vegetables are in season, however, transportation times are typically shorter, thereby, preserving more of their nutrient capacity and health benefits.
Growing your own vegetables obviously is always the best! But purchasing from local farmer’s market is the next best option, as generally you can get REALLY fresh (just picked today!) vegetables that contain the most vitamins and minerals. So the rule to remember here is to buy your veggies FRESH and when they are in season.
2. If vegetables aren’t in season right now, that means they will have been shipped to you from some other location (or country) and probably picked BEFORE they were ready. In that case, opting for frozen veggies may be a better option.
Frozen vegetables are typically picked at their peak, their ripest – then immediately put on ice, thereby preserving most of their nutrient value. They are also extremely convenient, having been already chopped up, which cuts down on preparation time when cooking.
3. Canned would be a very last option (if at all) if neither fresh nor frozen is available. Yes, canned foods are typically cheaper, but there are tradeoffs that can be harmful to your health.
Firstly, the vegetable is put into an aluminum can which leaches harmful chemicals into foods, like aluminum and BPA (bisphenol-A), a substance used to line the insides of cans. Moreover, BPA is a known hormone disruptor and extremely dangerous for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Secondly, a substantial amount of salt and other preservatives are used to make it possible for the average canned food to stay on grocery store shelves for months or even years.
Lastly, heat is used to during the canning process, thereby destroying much of a food’s nutrient value. All three concerns make canned vegetables a very poor option and one that I cannot recommend to be part of an optimal, healthy diet.
So, stick with fresh or frozen vegetables, cooking them as little as possible in order to preserve their nutrient content. And, by all means, feel free to experiment. Try a new vegetable each week and check online for new and interesting recipes!