What Are the Benefits of Frozen Foods?
Frozen foods get a bad rap for being processed as junk food, but the truth is that some of the healthiest foods on the market are in the frozen section. Here are five important reasons to stock up on chilled vegetables and fruits today and all year long.
They're ripe - in a good way!
From the moment a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose its nutrients, so the exact time it is picked and when it is eaten after it is picked can affect its nutritional value. Because most frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen shortly after harvest, they can be fully ripe, which means they are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and the freezing "locks in" many of their nutrients. On the other hand, most fresh produce in the supermarket is harvested more than 1,500 miles away and has to be trucked in to get there. As a result, it may be harvested before it reaches its nutritional peak and then artificially ripened during transport.
They are just as nutritious as fresh
The above differences may be why frozen produce is proving to be as nutritious as, if not better than, fresh produce, a fact supported by two new independent studies. Scientists at the Leatherhead Food Research Centre and the University of Chester conducted 40 tests to measure the nutritional levels of produce that had been left in the refrigerator for three days versus frozen foods. They found more beneficial nutrients in all frozen samples, from broccoli to blueberries. In fact, in two-thirds of the cases, frozen fruits and vegetables contained higher levels of antioxidants, including polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein and beta-carotene. This finding supports previous research that found frozen produce does not destroy its nutrient content. In one report, vitamin C levels in fresh broccoli dropped by more than 50 percent in a week, but only 10 percent for the entire year after freezing.
They don't contain additives
Because freezing preserves food, frozen food pouches such as spinach and strawberries do not need unwanted additives. In addition, "bare" products (no added salt or sugar, for example) are the norm, so it's easy to find fruits and vegetables with a single-word ingredient list - just the fruit or vegetable itself. To be sure, always check the ingredients, but I bet you'll find at least a dozen varieties in the freezer aisle with absolutely nothing added.
They're super healthy shortcuts
I frequent my local farmer's market, and I'm a big fan of fresh, seasonal produce. But honestly, after a long day, I sometimes look at my bounty, sigh, and think, "Ugh, I wish it would magically prepare itself." One of my favorite things about keeping frozen foods on hand is that they don't require any washing, peeling or chopping. For many of my clients, this benefit is the only reason vegetables show up on their plates. One study found that the average working woman spends less than an hour a day preparing, serving, eating and cleaning up after a meal. That's less than an hour per meal - less than an hour daily for everyone! Because frozen products are no-prep, taking them can save you a lot of time by allowing you to create healthy dishes at home instead of opting for take-out.
They are versatile
I keep a variety of frozen fruits and vegetables in my freezer and use them in a variety of ways. In addition to adding frozen fruit to smoothies, I thaw or heat them up as a topping for oatmeal or spread them on whole wheat toast with almond butter. Frozen vegetables are my main ingredient for sautéing, but I also like to sauté them in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs, with a little quinoa or brown rice pasta and a lean protein. For a quick and easy side dish, I reserve a jar of all-natural vegan pesto and olive tapenade to toss with steamed frozen vegetables. Some of my favorite combinations are: broccoli and sun-dried tomato pesto; spinach with roasted red pepper pesto; and French-cut green beans with green and black olive pesto. Easy, delicious, and ready in a flash.
1. Nutritional content
A common misconception is that frozen produce is not as nutritious as fresh produce.
But when farmers freeze fruits and vegetables, the nutrients are locked in.
This process maintains higher levels of heat-sensitive nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin C and antioxidants, for longer.
In fact, studies have found that 66% of frozen produce contains more vitamin C and many more antioxidants than fresh produce that has been frozen for 3 days.
There are two ways to make frozen a more affordable produce option.
Frozen produce is often cheaper than fresh produce.
This is because it takes longer to spoil and is usually harvested at the peak of that fruit or vegetable's season.
Frozen produce also minimizes food waste.
Since they typically last 3 months in the refrigerator, frozen options are less likely to "disappear" than fresh options that may last a week or less, which is good for your back pocket.
A final benefit of frozen fruits and vegetables is that they are available year-round.
If you wish, you can purchase frozen mango cheeks in the winter and add them as an extra to your Super Cubes frozen smoothies or add them to the top of a frozen smoothie bowl.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can offer many advantages.
Frozen fruits and vegetables have the same nutritional value as when they were picked at their peak freshness. In fact, studies show that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutrient dense as freshly stored fruits and vegetables. Those nutrients are locked in their proper place until they are on your plate.
Today's frozen food aisle offers a greater variety of ingredients, sides and entrees than ever before. From smoothie bowls to cereal bowls and everything in between, the frozen food aisle highlights culinary trends and, in some cases, starts culinary adventures. You can access fruits and vegetables in a variety of ways.
One of the main benefits of frozen produce is that you can dispense the amount you want and save the rest for later. Frozen produce is also pre-cleaned and pre-chopped, allowing you to enjoy more quality time at the dinner table. Better yet, clear cooking or preparation instructions on the package will show you how to cook or prepare the frozen product. Keeping your favorite ingredients away from the refrigerator door also gives you the freedom to get creative with your meals.
Reduce food waste
Have your produce and eat it, too! Did you know that frozen foods generate 47% less food waste than room temperature and frozen foods consumed at home? By preparing only what you plan to consume, you'll not only eat more produce, but you'll also ensure it lasts.
Commercially frozen fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen within hours of being picked. They are ready and edible - peeled or chopped and whitened to prevent browning.
Often, they are packed before they are flash frozen at low temperatures, so the moisture crystallizes immediately, preventing the product from becoming soggy when it is thawed. This also minimizes, but does not eliminate, damage to the structure of the fruit or vegetable and helps preserve nutrients.
Typically, frozen products retain most of their nutrients, although there may be minor differences in nutritional value.