Healthy Debate: Frozen vs. Fresh Veggies by Toby Amidor in Healthy Tips, March 16, 2009
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And the winner is… fresh veggies! Direct-from-the-farm fresh, if possible. But that doesn’t mean you should count out the frozen ones. There’s a time and place for them too. Find out the advantages of each and how the nutritional benefits vary.
When Fresh Isn’t Always Best
Some conventional veggies get shipped for miles across the country — a trip that can take days and cause their nutrients to diminish over time. After riding in trucks, vegetables then sit on supermarket shelves, where they’re exposed to air and water misters — another way that vitamins get destroyed.
The freshest produce choice is locally grown options from your farmers’ market. The fruits and veggies are picked and sold when their quality is best (they are usually a better price, too!).
When to Choose Frozen
Manufacturers freeze vegetables at the peak of their freshness to preserve the nutritional value. Frozen produce is great to keep around in case you run low on fresh or if there are limited offerings at supermarket due to seasonality. They’re especially convenient when you don’t have time to clean and chop (it happens to the best of us). I toss frozen peas into my stew and last week I ran out of fresh broccoli and turned to my emergency frozen bag.
Preserving the Vitamins
Vitamins in food are easily destroyed by heat, exposure to air, oxygen and water and changes in pH balances. Here are some ways to maintain the vitamins in the fresh or frozen veggies you cook:
- Use as little water as possible when cooking: Steaming and stir-frying are two great methods.
- Cook quickly over low heat: Cook veggies until just tender and avoid overcooking.
- Never add baking soda: It brightens the green color in veggies, but destroys thiamine and vitamin C.
- Cut and cook veggies in large chunks: The smaller the pieces, the more exposure to air. This tends to destroy vitamins A, D, E, K and the Bs.
- Cook veggies as soon as possible after cutting: This will minimize the time exposed