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A short review of the nutritional differences between fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
Whether you are preparing vegetable dishes for a holiday meal, shopping for fruit off-season or simply setting your grocery budget, one question may come to mind:
Does it matter whether it is fresh, frozen or canned?
Canned produce can be a mixed bag when it comes to nutrients. The nutritional value may vary depending on the commercial processing techniques used and the specific item in the can. For example, the nutritional value may decrease if the process includes removing parts of the vegetable, such as the peel or stem.1 However, canning can better preserve certain nutrients like vitamins C and B.2 It is also worth noting that canned products tend to have a higher sodium content, so keep an eye out for cans with no salt added.
Similar to canning, the processing technique used for frozen produce can make a big difference. Nutrients may be lost to peel and stem removal or during prep steps like blanching — the heat damage and oxidation result in the loss of certain water-soluble nutrients.3 However, like canning, freezing can help preserve other nutrients compared to fresh products.4
Eating fresh, ripe, intact fruits and vegetables is a great way to pack in nutrients. The downside, of course, is a more limited shelf life. One study comparing fresh and frozen produce found that the nutritional value of vitamin C, anthocyanins and carotenoids decreased faster in fresh produce, hitting the lowest value after three days. So while certain nutrients like carotenoids and phenolics remain the same, produce eaten within three days of harvesting is typically best.5
With the many processing techniques, types of products and possible nutrients in mind, the best nutritional comparison will be case-by-case. The greatest value-to-nutrient ratio, accessibility to fresh produce and storage capabilities may also impact the decision. Ultimately, eating fruits and vegetables is essential in whatever form they arrive.
Unsure how your diet might affect your cholesterol, ferritin, blood sugar or vitamin D levels? Check out imaware’s Men’s and Women’s Health & Wellness tests, Vitamin D Monitoring Test, Baseline Heart Health Test and Prediabetes / Diabetes Screening Test.