I never know if I should buy fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Which is the better choice?
Good question! We always talk about fresh being the best pick, but sometimes this doesn’t always hold true. Depending on the types of fruits and vegetables you purchase (e.g. tomato vs. canned tomatoes), some of the nutrition might be different. The good thing about fruits and vegetables though is they are packed with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber - essential in promoting good health and in reducing the risk of some diseases.
The type of fruits and vegetables you buy may have an effect on their nutritional benefits. For example, apples canned in syrup with sugar may not be the best fruit choice – maybe picking unsweetened applesauce could be an alternative. So what to pick? At a minimum, pick one of them (fresh, frozen or canned) – much better than nothing at all. But if the world is your oyster, generally fresh is the first pick.
In terms of nutritional value, fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be the better choice compared to frozen or canned. When a fruit or vegetable is fresh and at the peak of its ripeness, there is no beating it! Many commercial growers pick fruits and vegetables before they reach their peak ripeness (nutritional peak) to avoid spoilage, but the longer they sit in transport, storage, the supermarket shelf or your refrigerator, the fewer nutrients they have when you finally eat them. The best tip I can give you is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season and to eat them within two to three days of purchase. With spring finally here, start checking your supermarket for berries, cantaloupe, pineapple, asparagus, snap beans and zucchini.
Although fresh is usually the best option, frozen fruits and vegetables are a convenient runner-up. Fruits and vegetables intended for freezing are picked closer to their peak ripeness and then flash-frozen before being packaged. This technique may compromise some nutrients, but locks in the rest for an extended period of time. And when it comes to food waste – you may not be able to consume the fresh items as fast as you hoped (wasting them) and frozen is a great alternative for having them available when you need them!
Canned fruits and vegetables usually are your third choice; since sugar (syrup), salt and preservatives are typically added to extend shelf-life. But in terms of shelf-stability, they are hard to beat. Look for items that are low in sodium (no salt added) and generally don’t contain high levels of salt or sugars. Some canned items are actually higher in nutrients than fresh; canned tomatoes have higher levels of lycopene (antioxidant) than fresh. So not always so bad!