The Big Chill: Frozen Fruits and Veggies are Healthy and Convenient
When the temperature drops, the seasonal fruits and vegetables we have are more limited compared to the bounty we enjoyed during summer and fall. And to satisfy that craving, you don't need to look any further than your freezer.
Some people think that frozen fruits and vegetables aren't 'as good' as fresh, but I have to disagree. Freshly picked produce is nutritious, of course, but frozen fruits and veggies retain their nutrients quite well, too. And, during the winter when we have a bit less variety, they're really great to have around to keep winter meals from getting too routine.
In some cases, frozen produce may actually offer more nutrition than fresh. For one thing, fruits and vegetables that are headed for the freezer case are usually picked at their peak of ripeness – a time when they're most nutrient-packed. And they're processed quickly, too. They undergo a quick blanch with heat to kill any bacteria, then they're quickly flash-frozen, which locks in freshness and nutrients.
On the other hand, fruits and vegetables destined for your supermarket are often picked before they're ripe – so they might have the same nutritional value as if they'd been allowed to ripen on the vine. And, for out-of-season produce that's traveled a long distance from the farm to your fork, exposure to heat and light during shipping can affect nutrient content, too.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are also super-convenient. The frozen veggies I remember from my childhood were all sold in a solid square block that took forever to cook. Now, we have more loose pack, individually quick-frozen fruits and vegetables - we can pour out only what we need and keep the rest preserved in the freezer, and loose pack foods cook more quickly, too. There's no need to thaw your vegetables before you cook them – and that'll save you time, retain nutrients and yield fresher flavor.
When you're shopping, read your labels to be sure that you're not paying for anything other than fruits and veggies – that way you'll avoid added sauces and salt on your vegetables, or added sugar on your fruit. Bottom line? Buy your in-season fruits and vegetables fresh, when they're ripe and at their peak. But for everything else, you can find a healthy taste of summer just behind your freezer door.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.