Is frozen fruit & veg better for you?

Over the last few years, people have become increasingly concerned with the health value of the food they eat. One of the most common topics of discussion is the benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables regularly – and their superior nutritional value when compared to their frozen counterparts. However, it turns out that fresh fruit and veg may not have a much greater nutritional load than frozen products – and frozen fruit and veg may actually be the healthier choice.

So, let’s say you want to make a smoothie that’s got as much nutritional content as you can wring from the fruit and veg you use. Should you be using fresh fruit and veg, or frozen? While you might assume that fresh produce is naturally higher in nutritional content, there are several reasons that it’s probably not as healthy as you’d think.

The point at which fruit and veg are picked has a big impact on their nutritional value. Given that it spends time in transit after picking, fresh produce is at risk of spoiling before it ever reaches shop shelves – so it’s picked before reaching full ripeness. This offers some leeway in the ripening process, but being picked while unripe means that fruit and veg don’t have the time necessary to produce a full amount of nutrients and vitamins. Frozen produce, on the other hand, is picked when the fruit or veg is at its ripest, making it richer in nutrients.

Preservation also has a big impact on how much of their nutritional value fruit and veg manage to retain. Fruit and veg start to lose nutrients and vitamins from the moment they’re picked, and fresh produce suffers quite a bit from this. For instance, peas can lose up to 50% of their vitamins within the first two days of being picked. On the other hand, freezing halts this process – so frozen produce doesn’t lose as much nutritional content prior to being eaten. However, blanching, which involves dipping fruit and veg into boiling water to kill bacteria, can break down vitamins, resulting in a lower level. Blanching can reduce the level of nutrients by as much as 80%, but not all frozen fruit and veg is blanched, and it still only affects certain vitamins and nutrients.

All in all, the difference in nutrition between fresh fruit and veg and frozen isn’t as dramatic as you might think. Different methods of picking and preservation affect nutritional levels in a variety of ways, so both types have their benefits. However, it’s certainly clear that frozen produce is not nutritionally inferior to fresh, and given that it’s far more convenient in terms of storage and longevity, we heartily recommend plumping for frozen produce next time you’re shopping.