Fresh Isn’t Always Best – Get More Nutrients from Your Fruits and Vegetables!

Maximize the nutrition in your diet by following these tips.

It is a common misconception that choosing fresh fruit and vegetables is always the best option over frozen or canned. It is true that eating fresh, local organic produce is the most natural and healthiest way to meet our daily nutritional demands. Fresh food is full of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that supply a complex cocktail of nutrients our body needs to function properly. However, plant nutrients are delicate, and their nutritious potency will start to diminish the moment they are picked. If your food traveled far, it’s not as fresh as it may look.

Ideally, we could eat veggies and fruit hours after they are picked to harness their maximum value. Unfortunately, it’s an impractical solution for most modern families. Alternately, frozen and canned produce have such obvious advantage in convenience and price, they’re worth considering, especially when you consider how long it took the “fresh” produce to reach your grocery store.

Is Fresh Really the Ultimate Choice?

The bulk amount of commercial crops are shipped across the country before placed on grocery shelves. Some come on barges across the sea from South America. So called “fresh” produce can be over a week old after shipping. Then consider how many days it will sit in your refrigerator before you actually eat it and you could be munching on two-week old carrots.

Also, commercial crops are typically harvested before they have a chance to completely ripen on the plant. The fruit will continue to ripen off the plant while en route, but the integrity of its nutrition is weakened without further supplementation and sunlight.

frozen vegetablesFrozen and Canned Food has a Fresh Advantage

Canned and frozen vegetables may actually be more nutritious than even the freshest produce available at the grocery store. That is because growers package them within hours of harvesting. Although some of the nutrition will inevitably be lost during processing, nutritionists and researchers find that the overall impact of the process is not significant.

Certain fruits, such as berries, freeze so well that it’s almost always a better choice than the produce section. Fresh spinach can lose up to half of its folate within a week after harvesting. Frozen spinach comparatively retains a much larger amount of folate because it is flash frozen immediately after it is washed and blanched. The quick processing helps to significantly reduce the impact of oxidation, which deteriorates antioxidants.

Canned tomatoes have more concentrated amounts of lycopene and beta carotene than fresh tomatoes. Lycopene, which is essential for heart health, becomes easier for the body to absorbed after food is slightly cooked, which is part of the canning process. Canned tomatoes also contain more antioxidants because they are picked during their peak of ripeness.

Convenience Makes It Easier to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

The convenience of canned and frozen produce makes it easier to toss them into whatever you’re cooking too, making you likely to eat more healthy foods. Instead of spending all the time to wash, peel and cut your carrots, you just snip the corner off a plastic bag and pour out some sliced frozen ones. Throw diced peppers into your scrambled eggs in two seconds flat.

If you go with canned, be aware that manufacturers tend to damage the nutritional value of canned foods by adding ingredients such as sodium, syrups and sauces. Pay attention to the label when purchasing any type of canned food. Try to select fruit that is packaged in its own juice and avoid added syrups. You can also reduce added sodium and sugar by rinsing the food before cooking or eating.