Is fresh food better than frozen?

There is a common misconception that frozen food is not as good, that it lacks nutritional quality and it is not the gold standard of food. I think this comes from the fact that when a lot of people think of eating a meal from the freezer it consists of beige foods. You know what I mean? Nuggets and waffles, fish fingers and chips, smiley faces, pizza.

When you look at the range of frozen foods now available it is a really huge and varied market. I recently went for a wander in a frozen food store, a shop that I don’t tend to frequent and I was really surprised. There was so much there that I could use to make a quick, healthy, nutritious meal for my family. In fact I came out with a large bag of different food products for us to try out.

Freezing is a natural process that preserves food, removing the need for preservatives to be added. Research shows that although decreases the overall nutrient content of foods, it is only slight. So those vegetables that are picked and frozen straight away will actually be fresher and potentially more nutritious than the veg that has flown half way around the world and sat on a shelf in the shop. Vegetables lose a lot of nutritional goodness once they are picked, those supermarket fresh foods can be sat around for up to a month before you buy them. So these fresh versions can end up with less in them than the frozen equivalents. 

Dietitian UK: Is fresh food better than frozen?

A research study compared 8 freshly picked fresh fruit and veggies against versions that had been in the fridge for 3 days and the frozen versions. Obviously freshly picked veggies are the best to have, but the frozen came out of the analysis as being comparable and were in some cases even better than those that had been stored. The Leatherhead Food Research team found frozen broccoli  and carrots contained more vitamin C, lutein and beta carotene for example. However, fresh broccoli scored better on polyphenols, which are thought to help prevent cancer. Frozen raspberries and blueberries had higher levels of polyphenols, vitamins C and anthocyanins, showing for soft fruit it can often be better to eat frozen versions.

So am I saying we should all be eating frozen foods? No. Not at all. What the research does highlight is that there is not reason to not be eating frozen foods. They can be highly nutritious, convenient and easy to use. However you do lose some of the texture, taste and fibre content in the frozen versions. If you can grown your own, or get fresh, in season fruit and veggies that will therefore not have travelled as far or been stored as long then that is fab, but if you want asparagus in the off season you are best off getting a frozen version.

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