I was once told that when it came to fruits and vegetables that “fresh is best,” meaning that if I had a choice of fresh, frozen, or canned, that I should choose fresh because it was the best.
While the source of that information is now gone, I now know that it isn’t entirely correct. When I tell people to get their fruits and vegetables, I encourage a variety of colors regardless of fresh, frozen or canned.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are the original “fast food.” In some cases you can peel and eat such as oranges and bananas, and others it takes a simple wash with plain water like apples, tomatoes, grapes, snap peas, star fruit, peaches, kumquats, berries, cherries and baby carrots. Others need a bit more preparation.
Fresh fruits and vegetables taste great when they are perfectly ripe and at room temperature in most cases. However, unless you have picked them yourself, or know the person who picked them, there are two draw-backs to fresh: in many cases that fresh produce is picked before it is completely ripe and then the nutrients start to breakdown once the produce is picked. There isn’t a way to know for sure how long the produce has been at the market/store – even if it is organic.
This does not mean that fresh doesn’t have any nutrients; fresh fruits and vegetables are great and everyone should still eat them.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are picked at their peak of ripeness, blanched to kill bacteria, and flash frozen. Frozen produce is what I call “suspended in time” meaning that the nutrients aren’t doing anything at this point; they are just hanging out in their cryogenic storage not breaking down or anything. (For you “geeks,” I know that it technically isn’t cryogenic…)
So, frozen fruits and vegetables – without added syrup and sauces – are pretty darn good for you. Steam them, add them to soups and stews, run water over them and add them to salads. I love keeping several varieties in my freezer so that I can make sure I have veggies with our meals or fruit for my smoothies.
Canned fruits and vegetables are the most processed, but this isn’t always a bad thing. Like frozen produce, canned are blanched before canning (this is familiar to you if you, you mother or grandmother ever canned). In many cases there are added syrups or juice (with the fruit) or sodium (with vegetables).
If you choose to use canned produce, I recommend the following:
- Choose low sodium vegetables or fruit in its own juice (or light syrup)
- Drain the fluid the produce came in.
- Rinse the produce to get rid of the excess sodium. Evidence suggests that this reduces the sodium 20-40%.
No matter which type you choose, fresh, frozen, canned, or a variety of these, just try to get at least five and closer to nine serving of fruits and vegetables every day.