You’re strolling through the produce department trying to decide what to buy, but there’s a problem. You start thinking about all of the fresh fruits and vegetables you’re throwing away because you didn’t eat them in time. Now you’re wondering if frozen fruits and veggies are a better fit for you.
You’d like to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, but you want to make sure you’re not losing any nutritional value along the way.
So here are things to consider in the battle of fresh vs. frozen fruits and vegetables.
Frozen fruits and vegetable are generally less expensive than fresh ones.
For example, depending on where you shop, frozen organic spinach can cost about 50 cents less than fresh organic spinach — for twice the volume. Similarly, a 10-ounce bag of frozen fruit is about the same price as six ounces of the fresh fruit.
The USDA has an interactive chart you can use to compare fresh vs. frozen fruit and vegetable prices.
You should also consider this: frozen fruits and vegetables have a much longer shelf life, which means less food waste. You can also buy them in bulk, which provides even more value.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are going to taste the same as their fresh counterparts. They may even taste a little better because they’re typically frozen at their peak of ripeness.
If you go shopping for frozen fruits and veggies keep this in mind: Always check the labels to be sure you are getting nothing more than fruits or vegetables. You don’t want anything added for taste that will hurt nutritional value. So watch for things like:
- Sauces on vegetables that can add calories.
- Additives on your frozen fruits— especially sugar.
- Bring along an ice pack or cooler to keep your fruits and veggies frozen for the ride home from the store. Thawing and refreezing them can affect taste.
Here’s one thing to consider though, there are some vegetables you may want to avoid eating raw—fresh or frozen.
The clock is ticking on fresh produce the second you get it home. Fresh vegetables require higher humidity conditions while fruits require lower humidity conditions, which is why many refrigerators have two separate drawers.
Remember this rule of thumb when using your crisper drawer: “rot-low, wilt-high.” Fresh fruits that are prone to rot belong in the low-humidity drawer, while produce that's prone to wilting needs to be enclosed completely in the high-humidity drawer.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are easier to maintain. You eat them when you’re ready. They’re usually prewashed and pre-cut, too, making them easier to prepare. A recent study by the USDA found berries are the most popular frozen fruit on the market because it’s easy to throw them into a smoothie.
Nothing is as good for you as fresh — right? Maybe, but remember: fresh is a relative term.
Fruit and vegetables can be in transit, sit in stores, or wait in your fridge for weeks. By the time they make it from the farm to the supermarket to your refrigerator, they’ll lose some freshness.
Frozen fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are iced within hours of harvest, so that allows them to retain their freshness.
As we mentioned earlier, produce chosen for freezing tend to be picked at their peak ripeness. This is also the time when they are the most nutrient-packed. Although some water-soluble vitamins, like vitamins B and C can be degraded during the freezing process, frozen fruits and vegetables generally keep a majority of their nutritional value.
Research presented at the 2017 Experimental Biology meeting backs it up. It shows frozen fruits and vegetables can help you achieve your nutritional goals. According to the research, if you eat frozen fruits and veggies, not only do you eat more total fruits and vegetables, but you have significantly higher intakes of nutrients like dietary fiber and vitamin D, and micronutrients like calcium.
A Michigan State University study found similar results.Researchers there discovered eating frozen or canned foods are cost-effective and nutritious, too.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines we’re supposed to be eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables each day. But one recent study found eating 10 fruits and vegetables per day could provide even more benefit in reducing the chance of heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death.
In the end, it comes down to your personal preference. If you love hitting up the farmer’s market or produce aisle every week because you’re a freak for fresh—go for it. But if your schedule forces you to rely on the convenience of frozen fruits and veggies, that’s cool, too. You’re still reaping the benefits.