There are varying opinions on the topic of fresh vs frozen vs canned vegetables. But, evidence matters more than opinion. In this article, I will summarize the key points related to this topic that are established facts and also add some of my own opinions.
Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned Vegetables
The difference in the influence of these factors on fresh and frozen/canned vegetables is significant. Environmental factors such as soil quality, season, weather, farming methods and storage conditions/duration can influence nutrient content.
Frozen vegetables are typically blanched in hot water for a couple of minutes before freezing.
So, are frozen vegetables bad? Not really, frozen vegetables can be part of a healthy eating plan. But, if possible, it is better to eat fresh vegetables. This blanching process is to inactivate enzymes that may cause unfavourable changes in colour, smell and nutritional value. Blanching can release and breakdown some vitamins and minerals but is unlikely to significantly worsen the quality of the produce.
Canned vegetables are usually are more processed. As well as blanching they can be preserved in sugary syrups, contain added salts and other additives which carry their own health risks e.g. increased cancer risk.
Both canned or frozen vegetables are more artificial than fresh vegetables. But, which is better. Several forms of processing can also breakdown essential nutrients i.e. nitrates (from beetroot) almost entirely.
Cooking Methods for Fresh, Frozen and Canned Vegetables
How you cook food can influence the nutrient availability of certain foods. This helps release nutrients from the food for the body to absorb them more easily.
Some water soluble nutrients (e.g. B vitamins & vitamin C) may be lost during the cooking process of vegetables, but this will not completely destroy the quality of the food. In fact, cooking some foods enhances their antioxidant capacity, particularly beta-carotene from carrots, lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from broccoli and courgette.
Take Home Messages
How you cook your vegetables, whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned will determine the overall nutrient quality. Cook your vegetables with minimal water & oil to retain more nutrients e.g. steam/slow cook/casserole/roasted.
Choose the vegetables that are going to get you to eat them. Eating any form of vegetables means you’ll obtain some nutrients. Do what works for you!!