Are Frozen Vegetables Healthy?
You likely already know that vegetables are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and are an important part of a healthy diet, but are all vegetables healthy? Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy, especially when they’re seasonal and local, but it may make you wonder if the same be said for frozen peas, frozen carrots, frozen spinach and frozen stir-fry blends. So let’s dive in and answer the question: Are frozen vegetables healthy?
Fresh vs Frozen Vegetables: Which are Healthier?
There is a common belief that fresh foods are always a better option than frozen; however that is not the case. Although often considered a negative aspect of food processing, freezing food is simply a method of preservation that is used to keep food for longer periods of time. Freezing vegetables, as well as fruit, meat and seafood, is a way to store fresh foods, reduce spoilage, and save food for a later time when they are no longer in season.
Although there is a common belief that the act of freezing vegetables diminishes their nutritional value research shows that there is no significant difference between fresh and frozen vegetables. A vegetable’s nutrient content is at its peak the moment it is picked and then slowly begins to diminish over time, however, the act of freezing or flash freezing helps to reduce the amount of time the nutrients can degrade. Frozen vegetables are generally vine-ripened before undergoing minimal processing prior to freezing; most vegetables are blanched in hot water for a few minutes prior to freezing in order to deactivate enzymes that may cause changes in colour, flavour, smell, and nutritional value. For instance, the vitamin C content in vegetables such as red peppers and tomatoes is at its peak when the crops are picked from the plant, therefore, when frozen shortly after harvest these vegetables are more likely to retain their nutrient-density as compare to fresh ones that are exposed to light, heat and air during shipment and storage. It is for this reason that frozen vegetables are just as nutrient-dense, if not more, than their fresh counterparts.
Moreover, it is also important to recognize that locality and seasonality play a role in the nutrient-density of a vegetable. Since vegetables are at their nutritional peak when they are ripe and close to harvest, opting for local produce (fresh or frozen) as well as produce that is in season will help to ensure that you are getting the most nutrient-dense vegetables available. Therefore, in addition to buying frozen vegetables, you can also buy fresh vegetables when they are in season and freeze them yourself to enjoy at a later date without concern that you are doing any harm to the vegetables or losing any nutritional value in the process.
So, Are Frozen Vegetables Healthy?
Yes, frozen vegetables are healthy and often just as nutritious as fresh. Eating vegetables has been shown to have numerous health benefits and opting for fresh or frozen vegetables are both great choices. Not only can you reach for frozen vegetables and frozen vegetable blends in grocery stores, but freezing fresh, local and seasonal vegetables from your own garden or a local farmer is a great way to preserve these highly nutritious foods without diminishing their nutritional value.
The Benefits of Frozen Vegetables
In addition to being a rich source of fibre and nutrients, there are many practical and economic benefits of using frozen vegetables.
- Whole Food: Frozen vegetables are a whole food, and opting for 100% frozen vegetables is a great way to add more veggies to your diet. As with any food, be sure to read the ingredients to ensure that the product you are buying only contain vegetables and no additional additives or preservatives.
- Nutrient-Dense: Although there is some nutrient loss in the process of freezing vegetable, it is minimal. The process of freezing vegetables is a method of natural preservation that helps to reduce spoilage and preserve nutrition at the same time.
- Cost-Effective: In many cases, frozen vegetables and vegetable blends are less expensive than their fresh counterparts making them a budget-friendly addition to any grocery list.
- Convenient: In additional to being inexpensive, frozen vegetables are quick and easy to use given the vegetables have already been peeled and/or chopped helping to save time during the preparation and cooking process.
- Versatile: Frozen vegetables are also a very versatile ingredient and can be used in a wide variety of different dishes, recipes and cooking methods.
How to Cook Frozen Vegetables
The key to making frozen vegetables more enjoyable is cooking method and flavour. On their own, frozen vegetables can end up a little soggy and bland if not prepared with care but, fortunately, there are many different ways to use frozen vegetables that can add a lot of flavour and texture without much effort.
- Stir-Fries & Curries: Probably the most common choice, frozen vegetables are a great addition to a stir-fry since they are being cooked a high-heat, which will allow for additional water to evaporate and cook off. Not to mention, this cooking method can help to add a little crispiness to the vegetables while the spices and/or sauce can help to add a ton of flavour, like in this Veggie Curry in a Hurry.
- Soups & Stews: Since they are being added to a liquidy broth or water, adding frozen vegetables to a soup or stew is a great way to add more vegetables to your day. Be sure to add them closer to the end of the cooking process to avoid over-cooking them or allowing them to get too soggy.
- One-Pot Meals: Simple one-pot meals such as risotto, lasagna and baked pasta are great places to use frozen vegetables such as peas, carrots and broccoli. They can easily cook into the dish to provide a bright pop of colour, fragrance and added fibre.
- Casseroles: Whether it’s classic lasagna or something a little different, frozen vegetables work very well in casserole dishes to help add an extra serving of vegetables.
- Smoothies: If you are looking to add an extra serving of greens to your day, frozen leafy greens such as spinach and kale incorporate very well into a simple morning smoothie.
The Bottom Line
Although many people incorrectly believe that frozen vegetables are less nutritious than fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables are in fact a healthy choice. Not only are they are rich source of fibre and nutrients, but they are a convenient, inexpensive and highly versatile ingredient. Frozen vegetables can be sautéed, steamed, roasted or grilled, and at the end of the day, a vegetable in any form is better than no vegetable at all.