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. Theresa says:

    Nancy, How about organic do you need to soak also. I would think you could just run under water and get on with it.

  2. Kristine Brabson says:

    Ali, don’t be discouraged! Any vegetables — fresh or frozen — in a light recipe you make yourself are always a good choice, especially over packaged or processed foods. If you can’t get the absolute freshest, doing what you can with what you have is always good. Just try to make up for missing out on the freshest produce in the winter by hitting up the farmers’ market or tending your own garden in the summer.

  3. Laci says:

    I’m also interested about microwaving veggies. I always pick up the steam fresh packs at the store because its easy and quick. Cooking time is about 5-6minutes usually. I usually shop at Henry’s for fresh produce, but its always a hit or miss trip on freshness and quality.

  4. Toby Amidor says:

    Hi Kathy,
    Yes that is correct- frozen veggies are quickly cooked, then cooled in a process called blanching. This is a great technique to use to help maintain the nutrients in fruits and veggies!

  5. Toby Amidor says:

    Hi Tonya,
    Microwaving veggies with a few tablespoons water is comparable to steaming and is a good, quick method to use to cook up those veggies!

  6. Toby Amidor says:

    Hi Monica,
    Roasting certain veggies can destroy vitamins more than a quick cooking method like stir-frying, blanching or steaming.

  7. mbr says:

    First it says to do a quick stir fry which is done on high heat, then it says to cook on low heat buuut cook it quickly, wouldn’t that be an oxymoron??? Let’s use common sense, I know that stir fry is good for you as is raw veges. So in the battle of low heat vs. high heat… the high heat wins out. After reading this article, I’m deducing that stewy soups would be better than brothy soups??? Any suggestions/thoughts??? And I guess cutting aLL the veges in small tidbits to hide them in sauces/soups hasn’t been beneficial to AnY of us… what a waste of time & effort… grin… lol

  8. Nancy says:

    The doc’s say organic is harder to clean because you have to look for the bugs in them and they grow the veggies in manure plus they are not washed as carefully. Alot of the time it is the stores that put the junk on the fresh veggies to keep the color to sell them it is not so much the way they are grown. Bananas are the worst to keep them green. Everything has to be under running water for 60 seconds and at about 50 seconds you can feel the difference, try it on a bell pepper or an apple, it amazing! But I’m wondering if I’m loosing any nutritional value or would frozen be better in my case?

  9. DMK says:

    HI EVERYONE, LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I DO TO VEGETABLES AND I THINK YOU WILL BE QUITE SURPRISED. I PUT ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF VEGGIES IN DIFFERENT COMBO’S AT DIFFERENT TIMES IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR. THEY ARE GROUND UP LIKE A HUMMUS. FROM THERE YOU CAN DO ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING FROM DIP TO SOUP TO DRESSING ON SALAD’S OR PASTA’S. REALLY ANYTHING FOLK’S AND IT TASTES GOOD ONCE YOU GET THE COMBO RIGHT. IT KEEPS GREAT IN AN AIRTIGHT CONTAINER FOR SEVERAL DAYS IF YOU MAKE TOO MUCH. HOP EYOU TRY AND ENJOY !

  10. Maria K says:

    Really good too know, but the water thing – is this because it’s supposed to wash away the nutrients? What if you eat that water In my culture soup is key, and my family and friends have always been very healthy. It would shock me to find out that Soup was less healthy than stir fry!

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