How do fresh, frozen, and canned veggies stack up nutritionally? Read on to find out!
Let’s face it: it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy lifestyle. But sometimes that bag of fresh-cut kale is just too expensive and peeling carrots after a day of studying doesn't sound like fun.
Thankfully when it comes to getting our daily veggie nosh, there are options! Grocery stores sell steam-in-bag mixed vegetables which you can toss in the microwave and eat with a yummy sauce. Canned peas, corn, carrots, and green beans are available to add to chicken pot pie or simply warm up on the stove or in the microwave. But how do fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables stack up nutritionally?
As you may already know, vegetables are nutrient powerhouses. They are rich in potassium, fiber, folate, and tons of vitamins, all of which help to keep us healthy and reduce the risk of disease. (1) Fresh fruits and vegetables are normally picked before they are ripe, which gives them time to ripen during transportation. According to the USDA, some produce, such as apples and pears, can be stored up to 12 months before hitting the shelves! (2)
Fresh veggies can be prepared in a variety of ways which makes them flexible for soups, salads, stir-fries, sandwiches, and really anything you can think of!
You can find fresh, affordable veggies all over UNF’s campus:
Vegetables that are destined to be frozen are picked at their peak ripeness, when they have the most nutritional value. A couple of hours after harvesting, they are cooked for a short amount of time. This preserves their nutrients, kills bacteria, and prevents spoilage. Finally, they are packed and frozen.(3) Blanching can cause frozen veggies to lose some vitamins, but the losses are small, making them as healthy as (or even healthier than!) fresh veggies. On top of that, they are often cheaper than fresh veggies, and your grocery store may carry more kinds of frozen veggies than fresh. You would be surprised at the variety in the frozen aisle!
Frozen veggies can easily be cooked in the microwave for a quick side dish or stirred into soups. How about frozen spinach used for a quick spinach artichoke dip? Mmm!
Out of the three veggie options, canned vegetables are where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. But this doesn’t mean that they’re bad! Like frozen veggies, canned vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and are canned right after, locking in flavor and nutrients. Interestingly, some studies have found that the heat-processing that canned veggies go through contributes more health-promoting antioxidants than their fresh counterparts. (4)
Maybe Popeye was onto something...
One thing to keep in mind with canned vegetables is sodium. Salt is added to canned vegetables as a preservative to enhance their flavor and texture, prevent microbial growth, and increase their shelf-life. (5) An easy way to keep sodium levels low is to look for low-sodium labels on canned foods or simply wash and drain canned vegetables before eating them; this can reduce their sodium content by almost half!
Who’s the winner?
The truth is…there is no winner! The nutrient content of canned and frozen vegetables is comparable to, and in some cases, higher than fresh vegetables. On top of being affordable, frozen and canned vegetables have a longer shelf-life and are a super convenient way to add extra nutrition to any meal. Focus on including all kinds of vegetables into your diet to make sure you get a wide range of nutrients.
Explore your grocery store and see what kinds of veggies are available to you!