We all know that fruits and vegetables are healthy, but is fresh produce always more nutrient-dense than frozen? A recent study by the University of Georgia of eight fruits and vegetables added some proof to the theory that frozen produce can, at times, be more nutritious than fresh.

Researchers took a look at blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, green beans, corn, spinach, cauliflower and green peas and analyzed the nutrients in the fresh and frozen versions.

For the fresh versions, they analyzed the nutrients on the day the produce was purchased from the store and five days later after being stored in a refrigerator. They found that certain nutrients degraded over those five days.

I think it’s safe to assume that the fresh produce bought at the grocery store had already lost some nutrients before being purchased. Produce often is picked days or weeks before it ends up on the store shelves.

When they analyzed the frozen vegetables they found that “some frozen fruits and vegetables had higher levels of vitamin A, vitamin C and of folates than fruits and vegetables that had been stored for five days.”

The study was designed to test the fruits and vegetables from a consumer point of view, so the researchers bought the fresh and frozen produce from the grocery store like a shopper would. They also purchased from several different grocery stores.

Ronald Pegg, associate professor of food science and technology at UGA, explained why the frozen produce was more nutritious.

“Freezing is nature’s pause button,” he said. “It helps maintain the nutritional value of fresh vegetables, even during storage.”
What’s the take-away here? During the growing season, when you can grow your own produce or buy it at farm stands or farmers markets and then consume it within a few days, chances are the fresh versions are more nutritious. But, this time of year, when most of us can’t get locally grown produce that was just picked in the past day or two, buying frozen is probably a better option.

I’ve always assumed this, but it’s nice to have some scientific study to make me feel better about the bags of frozen vegetables in my freezer from October through May.

Do these findings make you think any differently about frozen vegetables?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Frozen produce may be more nutritious than fresh, study says
If your fresh fruits and vegetables have been sitting around for a while, you might be better off eating their frozen counterparts.