Healthy Debate: Frozen vs. Fresh Veggies

by in Healthy Tips, March 16, 2009

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
    to air.
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Comments (24)

  1. Carrie says:

    Great article! Something I wanted to know.

  2. sara says:

    so does this mean that people that eat mushier veggies are getting less nutrients? is there a certain crunch the veggies should have so that you know they haven’t overcooked or lost their nutrients? just curious

  3. Toby Amidor says:

    Hi Sara,
    Yes, mushy veggies have more vitamins destroyed. You want to cook with as little water as possible using a quick cooking method like steaming or stir-frying. Veggies should come out on the crunchier side.

  4. Krikri says:

    Right, the fact that it is from the farm does not guarantee wholesomeness. If the product has been on the shelf for long, if it has been kept in the open weather for long and if it has undergone preservation, it is no longer wholesome. For veggies to retain their optimum nutritional value, they must be fresh from the farm.

  5. Kathy says:

    Good article. However, I was watching a cooking show on the FoodNetwork and the cook stated that frozen vegetable are usually blanched prior to quick freezing is that correct?

  6. Tonya says:

    You did not mention microwaving veggies as a way to cook them. Is microwaving destroying nutrients?

  7. Monica says:

    Thanks for the information. I never see anything about roasting vegetables, but that’s my favorite way to prepare them. How does roasting affect the nutrients compared to steaming?

  8. Nancy says:

    I am on chemo and for me to eat fresh I have to wash ALL fresh for 60 seconds, including lemons, bananas, etc. Does the washing for this amount of time destroy any of the nutritional value? Would frozen be better in my case? To have a salad it is a total production! And nothing fresh at a resturant.

  9. Meg says:

    I also would like to know how microwaving (8 minutes aveerage) affects the nutritive value of vegetables. I use no water when microwaving.

    I also like to roast cut up potatoes at high heat (450 degrees) in the oven and wonder how that method of cooking affects nutritive value.

    Thank you,

  10. Ali says:

    I almost feel like I can’t win. What’s the point of eating vegetables if you can’t cook them, and if they’re no good if you buy them from the grocery store (especially if you live on the east coast during the winter.) I find these articles informative, but also discouraging at the same time.

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