Which Are Healthier, Fresh vs Frozen Vegetables?
Sometimes frozen vegetables can be even healthier than fresh — here's why.
Nothing feelings better than a summer tomato or fruit salad. But we shouldn't turn our noses up to frozen vegetables.
There are several benefits:
- Frozen vegetables lock in nutrients
- They're convenient and easy to always have to hand
- Reduces waste
- Captures savings when produce is in season
Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak in terms of freshness and nutrients.
Shortly after harvest, these vegetables are blanched, a cooking technique that partially cooks food, and then are frozen. This preserves their nutritional value, kills off bacteria, and stops it from spoiling
During blanching, vegetables may lose some vitamin C and B vitamins, but for the most part, much of their nutrients are preserved making them as healthy, if not healthier, than fresh vegetables.
Americans don't eat enough veggies.
Most Americans aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one out of every ten adults in the U.S. gets the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.1 Yikes, that means most of us don't eat enough. The benefits of eating plenty of vegetables and fruit go beyond consuming essential nutrients — maintaining a healthy diet can also help reduce the risk of several serious medical conditions, including heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.1
Fresh vegetables are typically shipped from long distances making them less nutrient dense than frozen veggies.
Traveling a long distance can reduce a vegetable's nutrients.
Fresh vegetables are often transported great distances after harvest, which makes them less nutrient dense than frozen vegetables, according to Rice.
Though they were likely harvested at optimal nutritional values, the time it takes to deliver them to stores around the country will cause them to lose some of their nutrients unlike frozen as discussed above.
Sometimes, frozen is better if your produce is picked unripe and sitting in the grocery store for days. Or even if picked at ripeness and then still sitting for days.
Frozen vegetables are your best, time-saving friend.
When you're on a tight schedule, according to Lewis, frozen vegetables can save you time preparing meals.
A mixed bag of frozen vegetables (peas, corn, carrots), for instance, can be used for a quick stir-fry. Soups and chili are quick recipes when cooking up your frozen veggies, Lewis added, and they save you time slicing and dicing.
Unfortunately, not all vegetables are meant to become "frozen." According to Barry Sears, president of Zone Labs, the ones you do see in the freezer aisle have been selected for sale because of their flavor retention characteristics in the frozen format.
That's why you don't see frozen salad greens or frozen tomatoes at the grocery store. They won't maintain their same flavor properties when frozen.
Frozen vegetables can often be prepared with minimal effort, making them a quick and convenient alternative to fresh vegetables.
They’re also typically cheaper than fresh vegetables and tend to have a longer shelf life, helping you get the most bang for your buck.
What’s more, they’re available year-round, meaning that you can enjoy your favorite veggies regardless of whether they’re in season.
Adding frozen vegetables to your diet is a simple way to increase your intake of important nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, studies show that increasing your intake of vegetables may be associated with a lower risk of conditions like heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Frozen vegetables are usually inexpensive and have a longer shelf life.
When it comes to budgeting, frozen vegetables can save you money compared to fresh ingredients you find at the farmers market or even in produce sections.
Additionally, they have a shelf life of approximately eight months so they are less likely to go bad if you forget about them, unlike your fresh veggies.
Their long shelf life also makes them ideal for eating when the raw vegetables you love are not in season.
Raw, seasonal vegetables from your garden or your locally sourced grocery stores offer you the most nutrients.
When it comes down to getting the most nutrients out of your vegetables, your best bet is going local. Your garden and locally sourced can offer you seasonal vegetables which ensure you with the maximum nutrition benefits.
We take great care at Rydeon to work with the best farmers right here in the Bay Area and are exceptionally lucky to have so many of the top sustainable, health focused farmers in the world.
These vegetables are harvested at their freshest and aren't traveling long distances to get to you, meaning they are at their peak in terms of nutrients.
However, this may not be possible year round based on seasonality, budget constraints, food allergies, and health conditions. In this case, frozen vegetables are a good option.
Both frozen and fresh vegetables do wonders for your health.
Frozen vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets, says Gene Lester, Ph.D., national program leader for nutrition, food safety and quality at the USDA. Why is this? Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when they usually are most nutrient-packed.
A 2017 study found that there were no significant differences in vitamin content between frozen and fresh vegetables. Furthermore, when there was a slight difference, it was more likely that the frozen vegetables had a higher concentration of nutrients than their fresh counterparts.
One recent British study found antioxidant levels in frozen produce can actually be higher than in fresh fruit and vegetables.
Two independent studies, which together included more than 40 tests on the most commonly bought fruit and vegetables showed in two thirds of cases, frozen foods had higher levels of antioxidant-type compounds, including vitamin C, polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein and beta carotene on day three of storage
Additionally, fresh vegetables have a much shorter shelf life than their frozen alternatives. If you are going to use the produce promptly, fresh is a good choice. However, to reduce the risk of spoilage and waste, frozen is a safe bet.
Though vitamins can degrade in fresh fruits and vegetables over time, many nutrients in foods are much hardier than most people assume, Dr. Bouzari said. “Minerals like iron are almost bulletproof, and the fiber doesn’t care at all whether it’s heated or frozen,” he said. And in general, the differences in nutrient levels between fresh and frozen are so minor that they would be unlikely to have an impact on overall health, and dietitians generally encourage people to eat as many fruits and vegetables as they can, in whatever form they enjoy.
Dr. Bouzari and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, compared the vitamin content in eight different fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables — corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries and blueberries — and found no consistent differences over all between fresh and frozen. The vitamin content was occasionally higher in some frozen foods; frozen broccoli, for example, had more riboflavin (a B vitamin) than fresh broccoli. But frozen peas had less riboflavin than fresh peas; and frozen corn, green beans and blueberries had more vitamin C than their fresh counterparts.
The researchers also analyzed the amount of fiber, levels of phenolic compounds (good sources of antioxidants) and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium in the same eight fruits and vegetables. They found no significant differences between the fresh and frozen varieties.
How to Cook Frozen Vegetables
We recommend not defrosting before cooking.
- Sautéed frozen vegetables: typically take 5-7 minutes
- Steamed frozen vegetables: can take anywhere from 2-10 minutes, depending on the vegetable
- Roasted frozen vegetables: typically takes 20-25 minutes with a flip halfway through
- Grilled frozen vegetables: the time varies based on vegetables, but typically takes between 5 and 10 minutes
We've made a longer article on the topic here: How to Make Frozen Vegetables Taste Just as Good as Fresh.
Frozen vegetables generally retain many of their nutrients. However, freezing may also increase or decrease the nutritional value of certain vegetables.
Which is better frozen or fresh Vegetables
Clearly the answer can be both. There are benefits of eating fresh produce when in season, local and available. You can count on us to deliver this to you. However, frozen vegetables not only are great to have on hand, but are healthy for you, the planet, and your wallet.