Fresh, Frozen or Canned: Does It Matter?
People will take sides in the argument: only fresh vegetables count, or, it makes no difference how you get your greens. However, it’s not quite as simple as it seems. From a nutritional standpoint, fresh, frozen and canned veggies are virtually the same, but they have different drawbacks and benefits.
Because canned and frozen vegetables are packaged at their optimal ripeness, they can have more nutrition. However, because frozen and canned vegetables are usually partially cooked, they may enter your kitchen with slightly less nutrition than they would were they fresh off the farm. There are some small differences between them, but it’s mostly a matter of what works for you.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Canned Veggies
The best thing about canned vegetables is their shelf life. Fresh veggies may spoil in your fridge, but canned will be fine for years. Sell by dates are often about optimal flavor rather than edibility. This is especially true for canned foods. Upon opening a 40-year-old can of corn, researchers at the National Food Processors Association found it was almost identical to freshly canned corn — save for lower levels of vitamin C. Additionally, canned vegetables can be cheaper than their fresh counterparts when they are out of season.
There are some drawbacks to canned veggies. They are usually blanched before canning then the cans are heated after being sealed to kill bacteria, this can impact nutrients in the same way cooking fresh vegetables can. That may make very little difference depending on how you plan to use them. If they are going into a cold dish, it might be no different than fresh vegetables. If you plan to cook them a second time, it may have more of an impact. Additionally, the can lining may include BPA, a chemical that has been linked to serious health problems. Another problem in the fluid the veggies are packed with inside the can. While canned vegetables may be nutritionally similar to fresh, the water they come in can be filled with salt, sugar or preservatives that would be absent if you were grabbing them from the produce aisle. Be sure to read the labels and find out what you’re eating!
Benefits and Drawbacks of Frozen Vegetables
Veggies in the freezer aisle have gotten more exciting in recent years. It’s no longer just peas and carrots. Artichokes, mushrooms, chard and more can be found in the store’s freezer! Vegetables that are flash frozen at the height of their freshness may be better for you than what’s in the produce aisle. Those fresh vegetables have traveled — sometimes for over a week — to the store and then sat on display until you bought them. Just because they are “fresh” doesn’t mean they are freshly picked from the field.
The great thing about frozen vegetables is that they’re so easy. They are washed and cut and — unlike canned — you don’t need a gadget to get them open! They are excellent in a smoothie or blended into soups or sauces.
The big problem with frozen vegetables is obvious: the texture and taste can be different from fresh vegetables. Blanching can take a little flavor away and leave the food with a lackluster taste. However, there are easy ways to get around that; it’s just that most of us are cooking them wrong! There is a particular knack to cooking frozen vegetables to stop them from being mushy or tasteless. Don’t put them in the microwave; learn if they might be better just defrosted and warmed; don’t cook all frozen veggies in the same way; don’t cook them too long. Google makes it easy to find good instructions for any vegetable you might come across! Here are some great guidelines to get you on your way to enjoying frozen vegetables.
As you can see, in the end, the health benefits are distributed evenly between the three types of vegetables. It’s more a matter of preference than virtues. Our advice is to get plenty of vegetables into your day in whatever way you like!