In the growing backlash against conventional processing of food items, preserved fruits and veggies have also acquired a bad reputation. That’s not to say all preserved produce is good - however, there may be good reasons to add frozen foods to your diet:
- Preserved produce is often more readily available. Sticking with what's in season is fine, but in winters frozen foods may be a necessary option, even a healthy option.
- Frozen foods can be nutritionally equivalent to fresh foods. Vitamins and minerals in produce typically start to degrade soon after harvesting. By the time produce makes it from the farm to the supermarket to your refrigerator, it has already lost some of its nutritional value. On the other hand, frozen fruits and vegetables are typically frozen within hours of harvest, so most nutrients are retained.
- Cooking degrades certain nutrients, vitamin C in particular. Vegetables such as broccoli and spinach are blanched (boiled briefly) before freezing. However, tests have shown that there is little difference between their vitamin C content and that of fresh produce, likely because the latter loses some vitamin C sitting on the shelf. Freezing and canning don't seem to affect other nutrients - fiber remains intact, as do vital minerals such as potassium and zinc.
- Frozen foods may actually contain less pesticide residue. Before fruits and vegetables are frozen, they are typically washed thoroughly to remove remaining dirt and debris. Thanks to this prep work, processed produce tends to have less pesticide residue than fresh conventional produce.
- Frozen foods may be better for the environment. Fresh specialty crops like berries are flown in from other countries at an enormous expense, while their frozen and canned counterparts generally travel by ship on a fraction of the fuel.
- Frozen foods are likely to result in less food waste. Home cooks often trash tough broccoli stems, fruit rinds and vegetable peelings. Many large-scale processors are now moving towards using trimmings as compost or giving them to local farmers as animal feed or dog food.
- Of course, there are other issues with industrially grown and processed produce - for example, many crops are bred for shelf life and being able to be shipped long distances rather than preserving flavor and nutritional goodness.
All in all, it makes good sense to combine fresh and frozen produce to suit both your taste and to maximize your health and wellbeing.
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