The fresh vs frozen debate is one that can get people rather heated, with some being adamant that fresh is always best, and the way that we are meant to enjoy our food, and others persisting that frozen is just as good, if not better! Today, we are going to dive into the pros and cons of both, and maybe by the end we will have a definitive answer on which one truly does reign supreme!
Fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods that humans can eat, they are packed full of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants, all of which are proven to improve our health considerably. We are recommended to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg daily (fresh or frozen!) by the NHS, but right now only about 10% of us are eating the recommended amount! This isn’t ideal at all and can explain the incline of health issues faced by the country such as heart disease, as well as the whole host of health problems caused by obesity in general.
I think everybody can agree that eating more fruits and vegetables is a good idea, but let’s explore some of the arguments on whether or not fresh or frozen is better for us below:
A lot of people believe that fresh will always beat frozen when it comes to nutrition, but this is actually a myth! Often frozen produce will be more nutritious than fresh, let’s dive into the reasons why:
A lot of fresh produce is picked before they are fully ripe, in order to allow them to ripen during their journey to the supermarket. However, this also prevents them from having enough time to fully develop all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that they usually would! They are also sometimes treated with chemicals whilst they are being stored in order to prevent spoilage and can sit on supermarket shelves for days before they are actually taken home by anyone! That makes us ask the question, just how fresh is fresh really?
Once harvested, fruit/veg start to lose water content, which is what causes them to go bad and lose nutrients. One study found that 3 days after harvest, fresh soft fruits had fewer nutrients than their frozen counterparts (it’s important to note that it can take on average 3 days from point of harvest for some produce to even arrive at the supermarket!). Another found that the vitamin C content in fresh vegetables declines rapidly after harvest, with green peas losing around 50% of their vitamin C in the first 24-48 hours after harvest!
On the contrary, frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested at their peak ripeness and washed/prepared before being frozen, meaning that they are at their most nutritious when they are frozen.
The only nutrients that are lost during the freezing process can occur in vegetables that are blanched (quickly boiled and then cooled) in their preparation process. The reason that manufacturers do this is to remove any harmful bacteria, and also maintain the integrity of the vegetable’s taste and appearance, however it also results in the loss of some nutrients that are water soluble, such as Vitamin C and some B vitamins as they are leached into the boiling water.
However, it is important to note that these nutrients are the same ones that would be lost when boiling fresh vegetables at home before eating them (such as broccoli, or spinach). Also, fruit does not undergo the blanching process, so their nutrient content isn’t compromised whatsoever!
Nutrients can also be lost in frozen produce if they are kept frozen for over a year, as this causes nutrients to break down. We recommend eating all frozen fruit/veg within 6 months of purchase in order to enjoy all of the nutrients that they have to offer!
During the winter, fresh produce is much harder to come by, as well as generally more expensive. For this reason, frozen fruit/veg can be ideal for the general consumer during these seasons, they are able to enjoy nutritious food (as the produce is often harvested and frozen when it is perfectly ripe, meaning that they have the most nutrients possible.
The versatility of fresh
Lots of us enjoy a delicious smoothie made with blitzed up frozen fruit, or soup made using a frozen vegetable mix. Frozen produce is ideal for these uses as when it is frozen, the water molecules expand and break the cell walls within the fruit/vegetable.
This doesn’t compromise on the food’s flavour or nutritional value, but by destroying the cell’s structure it can greatly alter the thawed texture. The thawed fruit/vegetable is often a lot softer, and in some cases just mush. This is completely fine to enjoy in a sauce/smoothie/soup, but understandably isn’t suitable for other meals at all!
Freezing food allows us to eliminate waste
We’ve all gone to the supermarket with high expectations of ourselves to cook some amazing dishes, and bought fresh produce, herbs, meat and fish to experiment with. But sometimes we end up being a bit busier (or maybe just lazier!) than we thought we’d be, and end the week having to throw away a few bags of soggy, limp spinach and inedible, mouldy broccoli.
Instead of admitting defeat here, we always recommend that people who often find themselves in this position try out using frozen veg instead! The amount of food waste in this country is astronomical, with households in 2018 contributing 6.6 million tonnes in that year alone! So, any way that we can reduce this number is ideal, starting with not having excess food in our fridges that won’t be eaten in time and end up in the bin!
When I was at university and buying food only for one for the most part, frozen veg was an absolute lifesaver! There was no way that I’d be able to finish a whole bag of spinach, head of broccoli or bag of carrots in a week by myself before they went bad. But by buying them pre frozen, I was able to still enjoy a whole host of nutritious vegetables in my meals (the classic instant noodles boiled with frozen peas, spinach and sriracha is still a favourite for lazy days!) without having to worry about waste!
After examining all of the facts, we think that the most important thing to take away from this whole debate is that we all just need to eat more fruit and veg, full stop! Whether or not you prefer fresh or frozen is completely up to your own preferences on how you like to enjoy it.
For example, if you know that you eat a lot of salads, fresh might be the best option for you! On the contrary, if you prefer soups, smoothies or stews, frozen would be ideal! The nutrient content is pretty much identical in fresh and frozen produce (depending on how fresh your fresh produce is!) as well as the flavour. For the most part, we think that a combination of fresh and frozen is ideal for the average consumer, as it allows us to eliminate a lot of waste, save money and enjoy fruits/vegetables no matter whether or not they are in season!
No matter your decision, just remember that having any fruit or vegetables is better than having none, and (fresh or frozen!) they will leave you feeling your best!