*[Image Goes Here]* Has the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables got you down? Tired of your fresh produce going bad in the fridge because you didn’t get to it? Well you may be happy to know that fresh isn’t necessarily better than canned or frozen. Although fresh vegetables have superior taste, colour and texture than their frozen or canned counterparts, you can rest easy knowing that you are providing your body with the same amount of nutrients (i.e. vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre) regardless of the source.
Generally there are two ways to cause loss of nutrients from fruits and vegetables: by letting them sit around after harvesting and by cooking them.
The fresh vegetables we buy in the winter may take up to two weeks to reach us after they have been harvested. This can result in some loss of Vitamin C, a vitamin that is especially vulnerable to oxidation damage after harvest. Fresh fruits on the other hand are less susceptible to loss of vitamin C because they are more acidic. Most other vitamins, minerals, & antioxidants are usually stable during this period in most fruits and vegetables.
Frozen fruits and vegetables on the other hand are packed on ice almost immediately after harvest thus helping to preserve their nutrients. However before you assume frozen is better than fresh you should know that the fruits and vegetables are plunged into hot water for a minute or two before hitting the freezer, thus stabilizing the food and preserving most of its colour and texture. As a result some loss of nutrients occur but in general fresh and frozen end up with the same amount of nutrients by the time they get to you.
Canned fruit and vegetables also have to go through some heat processing before they arrive on grocery store shelves resulting in some loss of nutrients. However a recent study showed that canned fruits and vegetables had very similar amounts of nutrients as compared to frozen – even without preparing the food in the liquid it was canned in. This is because canned fruits and vegetables are also processed immediately after harvest.
This is not to say that canned fruits and vegetables are always the best choice. Canned vegetables are very high in sodium and canned fruits packed in syrup are high in sugar. Make sure you look for the healthier and equally as tasty alternatives on the grocery store shelf, i.e. low sodium and salt-free canned vegetables and juice-packed fruits. *[Image Goes Here]*
The bottom line here is that everyone should be eating at least 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to decrease the risk of developing heart disease and some types of cancer. If buying frozen or canned means that you are more likely to purchase and eat fruits and vegetables than that is all that matters.
Once you’ve purchased your fruits and vegetables (whether fresh, frozen or canned) you should remember that cooking them incorrectly will result in greater loss of nutrients. Here are some tips to keep nutrients in:
For more information on fruits and vegetables go the Thunder Bay District Health Unit website at www.tbdhu.com.
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