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FRESH, FROZEN OR CANNED FRUITS AND VEGETABLES ?

Are frozen or canned fruits and vegetables a good alternative to the fresh?

· nutrition

Since 2001,you have surely heard or seen this sentence written a good number of times: "Eat 5 fruits and vegetables per day". To achieve this goal, you may think of fresh fruits and vegetables only, when they can be presented in other forms: frozen or canned. So should we necessarily eat them fresh? Do they have the same nutritional values? Are frozen foods and canned foods a good option for lack of time and money? Coup d´barre is going to explain you these different ways of consuming fruits and vegetables and we will see that there is a lot of misconception. 

In first time, a little reminder on the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables:

No need to talk about them for 2 hours to know that they are essential to our food balance. 

Small reminder of their properties: 

They contain many essential vitamins and minerals as well as many antioxidants. They are also very high in fiber and water. They protect against obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers...

Why this recommendation: 5 fruits and vegetables per day? 

This portion is the minimum amount necessary to meet the body's needs, but it is possible to consume more.  

Fresh fruits and vegetables:

Fresh fruits and vegetables represent the largest share of fruit and vegetable sales. Their taste is incomparable to those frozen or canned and they are often described as being the richest in vitamins and minerals.

However, this last statement is true if we respect the notion of fresh product. Whether it's from your garden or from a local grower, definitely yes. But if by that we mean fresh vegetables from the supermarket, it is not so obvious. For this statement to hold true, fresh fruits and vegetables should be eaten as soon as possible after picking because their vitamins break down very quickly in the presence of air and light. So between the moment they are picked and the moment they end up on your plate, they lose their nutritional quality. After 3 days after picking, a fruit or vegetable may have already lost 50% of its vitamin content.

To reduce this time and have the best nutritional quality, it is therefore necessary to favor the purchase of these products directly from the producer or on the market and consume them quickly. After nothing better than having your own vegetable garden 😉. When you buy fresh fruit or vegetables at the supermarket, it may already have been several days between picking and arriving on the stall. Even as you buy it, they have already lost some of their vitamins and minerals. We are not talking about off-season products which are sometimes imported from far away. They will contain even less nutrients, not to mention the environmental impact!

Tips: To best preserve the vitamins and minerals in your fruits and vegetables, keep them in a cold place, or in a dry place away from light. Consume them most often with the skin, which is very rich in vitamins and minerals. For cooking, use steam rather than immersing them in water. This will limit the loss of water soluble vitamins during cooking.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables in the true sense of the word can be very overwhelming. Among the barriers to their consumption are time and money. You may not have the time to regularly go to the market or to your producer, prepare and cook them. Fresh products are generally more expensive than the others. In this case, why not opt for a faster, more practical and economical solution: frozen or canned fruits and vegetables? You may think that they are "bad for health", "less rich in vitamins" ... But Coup d'barre will prove to you that they are not so bad and that they can be a good alternative if you cannot consume fresh produce quickly; everything will depend on storage and then on the cooking method.

Frozen fruits and vegetables: 

Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked in full season when ripe. As soon as they are picked, they are ready to be frozen. Thus, only a few hours elapse between picking and freezing. This reduced time limits the loss of vitamins and minerals in the product and the freezing process slows down the destruction of these nutrients.

Before being frozen, the product will be blanched. That is, it will be immersed in very hot water for a few minutes in order to destroy the enzymes that promote its oxidation. Bleaching thus makes it possible to protect the product, its texture texture, its color and its nutritional values. During this stage, some of its water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B9 dissolve in water and are therefore lost. Nevertheless a good part of the vitamins is preserved. The extreme cold then helps stabilize their nutrients. A frozen product generally contains an equal or even greater amount of vitamins and antioxidants than its fresh equivalent left in the refrigerator for a few days or depending on the cooking method you are going to use.

For example, if we compare the amount of vitamin C in a raw spinach leaf picked the same morning and a frozen spinach leaf, we notice that raw spinach has almost 2x more vitamin C than the frozen one.

Now, if you cook this raw leaf in water, some of its water-soluble vitamins will dissolve in the water. The content of the frozen microwaved leaves did not change. As a result, the nutritional gap between the 2 spinach leaves is greatly reduced. They contain almost the same amount of vitamins.

Note: It is for this same reason that vegetable broths are very interesting from a nutritional point of view.

In addition to having better nutritional value than some fresh products, frozen foods keep longer. Deep freezing preserves the nutrients in the product for a long time. However, above a certain limit, it begins to lose nutritional quality and taste. You can find on the packaging the notion "Minimum durability date" or "Best before date of use" which means that the product is still consumable but that it begins to lose its nutritional and organoleptic qualities. 

Of course, its frozen products can be eaten all year round, including out of season. Often cheaper than fresh produce, they are quicker to prepare and have a color and texture that is more like fresh produce than canned food.

However, not all vegetables are suitable for freezing, such as salads or tomatoes for example. Also pay attention to the type of frozen food you buy. Frozen pouches containing only one type of vegetable are good nutritional values. However, some vegetable casseroles have added fat, salt, additives or preservatives. These are often pan-fried foods containing foods other than vegetables, such as meat. Favor raw products.

Tips: To get the most vitamins and minerals in a frozen product, opt for quick defrost. Choose for the fastest possible cooking without thawing the product first and use as little water as possible.

Canned fruits and vegetables: 

There are several misconceptions about canned fruits and vegetables. Many believe that they contain many preservatives, dyes ... wrongly. Preservatives are prohibited in canned vegetables. For fruits, certain acidity correctors and coloring agents are authorized. Otherwise the only foods that can be added to fruits or vegetables are water, salt or sugar. To limit its additions, choose canned foods labeled "no added salt", "no added sugar"...

As with frozen fruits and vegetables, there is little time between picking and canning. However, during the canning process some of the vitamins are destroyed, especially vitamin C, which is very sensitive to heat. Some of the vitamin B9 and C also dissolve in the liquid in the can. Once canned, the product can be stored for a long time (minimum 1 year) and does not lose or lose a few vitamins and minerals.

Canned fruits and vegetables are very high in carotenoids. These pigments are better preserved in canned food. Certainly in terms of taste and texture, preserves are not ideal. Fruits and vegetables tend to become waterlogged, soggy, or become spongy. But they allow you to consume fruits and vegetables all year round and at very affordable prices. Already cooked, they are a considerable time saver.

You can find aluminum cans or glass jars. We recommend that you prefer glass jars. However, keep them away from light. Exposure to light may deteriorate the product.

Tip: In the cooking juice of fruits and vegetables (liquid found in the box), there is certainly often salt but also water-soluble vitamins of the product which have dissolved. Thus, it is not necessarily recommended to rinse the fruits and canned vegetables unless medically contraindicated (such as a salt restriction diet).

With the objective of consuming a minimum of 5 fruits and vegetables per day, these 3 modes of consumption have nutritional and practical advantages. From a nutritional point of view, your best bet is to have your own vegetable garden or buy fresh, seasonal produce to eat quickly in the market or from your local producer. For lack of time, money, season ..., opt for frozen or canned products.

For more articles on nutrition, sport, the environment ... click on the following link 😉 They will allow you to learn more about how to optimize these performances, your well-being and reduce your environmental impact.

Sources: 

Légumes: lesquels manger frais, surgelés ou en conserve ? (futura-sciences.com) 

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