Should You Buy Frozen or Fresh? The Answer Might Surprise You.

New research will guide your next grocery shop.

There’s no question that a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables is good for a runner’s health: it helps protects muscles from oxidation and inflammation, helps ward off heart disease and diabetes, and of course, can help curb weight gain.

But does it matter, then, whether that produce is fresh or frozen? In some cases, yes. Fresh produce is expensive when it’s out of season (thanks to the cost of transportation), and because it has to be transported, it can loses some of its nutritional value.

new study from the University of California, Davis, in the US analysed fresh and frozen foods to determine which were more nutritious. The researchers grew and harvested their own corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries and blueberries. For each item, half was allotted for fresh storage and the remaining half was frozen and stored.

The researchers collected samples before, during and after the respective storage period (maximum of 10 days for fresh-stored and 90 days for frozen). It turns out, the nutrient content differed between storage methods and specific foods.

Vitamin C
Well-preserved in frozen corn, green beans, and blueberries, as compared to the fresh versions.*

Lower in frozen peas, but higher in frozen broccoli.*

Vitamin E 
Content degraded in fresh peas, carrots, and corn, but was higher in frozen peas, green beans, blueberries, spinach, and corn.*

An antioxidant that is converted into vitamin A in the body, suffered the greatest losses. Over the storage period, frozen peas, spinach, and carrots lost more than half of their initial beta-carotene content, while their fresh counterparts lost only 15 per cent of their initial beta-carotene content.*

Calcium and Copper 
Comparable for fresh and frozen

Slightly lower in frozen peas, spinach and corn.*

Slightly lower in frozen peas.*

Lower in frozen spinach and carrots.*

Higher in fresh broccoli and lower in frozen peas and carrots.*

Phenolic Compounds 
These sources of antioxidants were higher in frozen blueberries and strawberries and lower in broccoli, corn, and peas.*

*The amount was comparable for other foods not listed.

Because the results did not show a clear winner, follow these tips to get the most nutritional (and taste) bang for your buck.

Go Fresh When…

Foods are in season. They can cost less and will taste better.

You’re running low on vitamin A. Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is better preserved in fresh fruits and vegetables. Get yours from orange and red produce, like peppers, papaya, carrots and butternut squash.

The frozen one isn’t a good replacement. Sometimes there’s nothing quite like fresh blueberries, so if you’re not a fan of the texture of frozen blueberries, don’t force it. It’s better to buy healthy foods that you will actually eat, rather than buy the less expensive frozen version that will end up with freezer burn.

Go Frozen When…

You have a busy week. The best part about frozen fruits and veggies is they’re already chopped and prepped for you. If you have a hectic week ahead of you, stock up on frozen veggies to quickly defrost and add to brown rice for a quick, nutritious meal.

You want to save money. Frozen produce is generally less expensive than the fresh kind, so protect your wallet by shopping for frozen fruits and veggies.

-Additional reporting by Debbie Fetter


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