As a gardner, I have certain assumptions about food. Fresh is always better; however, I do freeze for winter. Recently, a friend shared that frozen food was actually more flavorful and nutritious than fresh food available in the grocery store. This threw me for a loop: I always thought “frozen fresh” was an oxymoron, but the reasoning made sense.
With today’s massive industrial agricultural system, fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe to ensure they do not spoil in transportation. As result, flavor is lost and heirloom varieties that will only ripen on the plant become obs0lete. In contrast, frozen food is picked when ripe then frozen immediately. So which is better?
Contrary to my assumptions, some vitamin content actually drops upon ripening. Natural Hub reports, “The vitamin C content of many fruit is higher when it is slightly immature, and declines as the fruit hits peak ripeness.” According to Vitamin Deficiency Today:
- “Potatoes lose 50% of its vitamin C in two month after harvesting and almost 80% of vitamin C is lost after four month of storage.”
- “Spinach which is very popular because of its valuable nutrients, lose 80% of its vitamins during first two days after harvesting even if it is stored in cool and dark place.”
- “Fresh green peas…lose significant amount of its valuable nutrients within a week. Study has showed that 77% of vitamin C in fresh green peas was lost after seven days of storage.”
Thus, eating the freshest food possible is the best for your health. But what happens when the fruit is picked days or sometimes weeks before reaching your local grocery store? Vitamin Deficiency Today explains:
Studies have found that frozen vegetables in some cases contain more nutrients than fresh ones.
Scientists found that cooked frozen green peas contain higher levels of beta carotene than cooked fresh peas. Most frozen fruits and vegetables bought at supermarket were frozen very soon after harvest and it helps to minimize the loss of nutrients. Today we should agree that fresh vegetables are not always better for us, because of long food storage periods.
If you are not growing your own food or shopping at a local farmer’s market, do not discount frozen vegetables, especially if eating out of season. Frozen food grown in the United States is better for you than fruits and vegetables grown in South America and transported to the United States. Energy consumption used to freeze produce is an environmental concern; however, the carbon footprint of transporting food is also heavy. As always, local, seasonal produce is the best bet for your health and the environment.