Regarding nutrition, one of the most pertinent questions you may have asked yourself is whether there is a nutritional difference between fresh produce and frozen produce. While it seems intuitive that frozen produce would be less nutritious than a fresh, leafy plant, this article will help explain the facts about this often misunderstood topic.
Fresh vs. Frozen
When a piece of fruit comes off the tree or a vegetable is pulled from the ground, it will invariably be rich in nutrients and vitamins as all fresh produce is. Something many people don't know, however, is that fresh produce is often picked before its peak of ripeness so that it may be shipped with minimal damage to the product. During the long distance most produce must travel to get to its final destination, fruits and vegetables are also exposed to lots of heat and light which may diminish or degrade some of the more sensitive vitamins in the produce. While picking fruit and vegetables early ensures a more attractive and "perfect" product, the produce may not be quite as rich in nutrients as it could have been if picked at a later date. The fresh produce is still full of its normal array of healthy nutrients, it just may not be in its prime nutritive condition.
Frozen produce, on the other hand, is generally picked at its peak of ripeness and frozen immediately after a process called blanching, where the product is cooked briefly in boiling water to sterilize it. While certain water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B may be partially lost during this process, frozen fruit and vegetables generally keep the majority of their nutritive value when processed. Because of this, frozen produce is no less nutritious than fresh produce. However, frozen produce may again lose some of its nutritive content when reheated. In order to maintain the most nutrition in both frozen and fresh produce, reheating in a microwave or steaming rather than boiling is the best way to keep produce whole and intact.
Myth vs. Fact
In 1998, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) published its official findings on the nutrition difference between fresh and frozen produce. The FDA found that, in essence, there is no difference in nutrition between fresh produce and frozen produce. Because of the nutrients that are lost due to most commercial food production of fresh produce, as well as the nutrients lost during the blanching and reheating processes of frozen food, the nutrient profiles of each are relatively the same.
Regardless of whether you consume fresh or frozen produce, the FDA also recommends that you eat between five and nine servings of fruit and vegetables per day. A serving is considered to be a half cup of sliced fruit or vegetables, while for leafy greens a serving is considered to be one full cup.