fresh vs frozen vs canned vegetables

Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned Vegetables

By Danny Webber
Danny Webber is a SENr registered practitioner, an ISAK certified Anthropometrist and a UK Anti-Doping accredited adviser.
| Updated on June 14, 2022

Nutrition Advent Calendar – Day 22

As I planned this topic, I noticed last week that had published an evidence-based article with the same intention, so I’m simply going to summarise the key points from this, as they have done a great job!

Plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet are crucial and highly recommended as they provide nutrients vital for the health and maintenance of your body. But have you ever wondered which is better- fresh, frozen, or canned?

Here in this guide, we will briefly study each produce, have a healthy debate on fresh vs frozen vs canned vegetables, and learn the pros and cons of each variant. By the end of this informational content, you’ll be able to decide which option is most suitable according to your health needs and will help you decide what to choose for the next time you visit a supermarket.

Let’s break it down one by one.

Fresh Vegetables

fresh vegetables

fresh-product Vegetables are a fundamental part of modern agriculture, full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fresh Vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet that provides abundant health benefits and are highly recommended for daily consumption.

However, environmental factors such as soil quality, season, weather, farming methods, and storage conditions/duration can influence nutrient content.

Frozen Vegetables

frozen vegetables

frozen-vegetables Frozen vegetables are an affordable and convenient alternative to fresh vegetables that can be prepared with minimal effort. The most prominent benefit of frozen vegetables is that they are available year-round, meaning you can have your favourite veggies on your table regardless of whether they’re in season or not.

The vegetables are typically blanched in hot water for a couple of minutes before freezing. This process may often lead to a significant decrease in heat-sensitive nutrients. Freezing the veggie further may affect the nutritional value of certain vegetables and specific nutrients differently. 

So, can frozen vegetables be a healthy addition to a well-rounded diet? Let’s explore this in the upcoming sections.

Canned Vegetables

canned vegetables

canned-vegetable Canning vegetables is an effective way of preserving vegetables for future consumption. Canned & jarred vegetables may undergo slightly more processing; however, their nutrient content is still very valuable compared to fresh and frozen vegetables.

As well as for blanching, they can be preserved in sugary syrups and contain added salts and other additives that carry their own health risks, e.g. increased cancer risk.

Several forms of processing can also break down essential nutrients i.e. nitrates (from beetroot), almost entirely.

Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned Vegetables: Comparison

Frozen Vegetables vs Fresh Vegetables 

frozen vegetables vs fresh vegetables

Fresh veggies undoubtedly taste the best. But the good news is that the nutritional value of the vegetable is not really reduced during the freezing or canning process. Yes, you read that right!

Frozen vegetables can, in fact, be part of a healthy eating plan. But, if possible, it is better to eat fresh vegetables. The blanching process carried out before freezing vegetables is to inactivate enzymes that may cause unfavourable changes in colour, smell, and nutritional value. Blanching can release and break down some vitamins and minerals but is unlikely to significantly worsen the quality of the produce.

So the question of the hour is, are frozen vegetables bad? No, they certainly are not. They retain their nutrients from when they were picked. Some frozen veggies like frozen peas are better than their fresh alternative. 

How you cook them may greater impact their nutritional quality, but that’s the same with fresh vegetables. So choosing fresh or frozen vegetables is entirely up to you. However, it would be best to consider a few things when preparing them.

Canned Vegetables vs Fresh Vegetables 

canned vegetables vs fresh vegetables

In some cases, the nutrient content of canned fruits and vegetables (like canned tomatoes) may be higher than that of fresh produce. Canned veggies are super easy to use and are less time-consuming because, unlike fresh veggies, you do not have to go through the peeling and cutting process.

Canned products are readily available throughout the year, regardless of the seasons. If preserved under favourable circumstances, there’s not much difference in the nutrient value of canned and fresh vegetables.

Cooking Methods for Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Veggies

cooking-method 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.

Fresh veggies are usually cleaned with water, peeled off, and cut into pieces before cooking. It is generally best to keep cooking time, temperature, and the amount of liquid to a minimum. Hence the healthiest way of cooking fresh veggies is steaming than boiling. 

Frozen vegetables taste better when roasted in the oven or cooked on the grill. Frozen produce should not be exposed to heat and water for longer because doing so can destroy the nutritional value of the vegetable and create a soggy mess.

On the other hand, to cook canned veggies, you can blanch the vegetable to remove the canned taste. And since canned veggies are already cooked in the container, they just need to be heated. 


Facts About Canned and Frozen Fruits & Vegetables

So here’s the bonus content for you all. Let’s know some interesting facts about canned and frozen fruits & veggies: 

  • Frozen and canned vegetables must be processed accordingly in the few hours of their harvesting. This is done to preserve the nutrients.
  • Depending upon the item, freezing or canning may preserve the nutrient value or even increase it.
  • Studies have proved that recipes prepared with canned foods have similar nutritional values to those with frozen or fresh.

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!!

Also, learn about the usefulness of other processed foods from our article Is Diet Coke Better Than Regular Coke.

If this blog on fresh vs frozen vs canned vegetables was resourceful, do not forget to drop your comments down below!


Are canned fruits and vegetables healthy?

Although they may be slightly more processed than fresh and frozen vegetables, canned fruits and vegetables still retain key nutrients and can be included as part of a healthy diet.

Are canned vegetables bad for you?

No. Canned vegetables still contain valuable nutrients to support a healthy diet.

Are you supposed to wash frozen vegetables?

Frozen vegetables do not need to be washed, as they can be cooked from frozen and added straight into meals such as casseroles.

Should you rinse canned vegetables?

Canned vegetables should be rinsed before eating as they can be higher in salt, but this isn’t essential.

Does canning destroy nutrients?

Canned fruits and vegetables may undergo more processing than frozen produce, which may destroy some compounds such as nitrates.

What’s the best way to cook frozen vegetables?

Steaming, microwaving, or simply adding vegetables into a pot of cooked food e.g. casserole/Bolognese, are the best methods of cooking. If microwaving, steaming, and especially boiling, avoid cooking the vegetables for too long as this can result in lost nutrients.

Which frozen vegetables are best?

Some of the best-frozen vegetables are frozen peas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, and so on.

Are there any disadvantages of fresh vegetables?

Fresh vegetables are more likely to go off if left too long and this significantly reduces the nutrient content. Eating vegetables that have gone off will also make you ill.

Are Frozen Vegetables considered processed food?

Frozen fruits and vegetables may be blanched before being frozen in order to inactivate enzymes that may cause unfavorable changes in color, smell, flavor, and nutritional value. Hence they can be considered processed.

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