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What products are the best fresh vs frozen vs canned vegetables and fruits.

Fresh

Fresh fruit and veg are those that are either ripened on the vine and sold straight away (eg tomatoes) or ripened post-harvest in transit (eg bananas).

Plants absorb the majority of their nutrients from the soil in the early stages of growth, and can continue to synthesise macronutrients and micronutrients after they’re harvested. So, is freshly picked food always the most nutritious option?

It depends. Much of the food’s nutritional value is down to the soil content, so if you’re buying local and organic, and consuming shortly after harvest or ripening, then yes, this is the way to consume your fruit and vegetables to ensure maximum nutrition.
EAT: Anything you’ve grown yourself, or organic produce from your local farmers’ market.

Frozen

Freezing ‘locks in’ freshness, right? Well, that is determined by the food and the processes used in production.

As a rule, frozen fruit and veg are ripened and undergo minimal processing before freezing, though some are blanched in hot water to deactivate enzymes that can alter nutritional state, colour, smell and flavour.

Frozen fruit and veg can be as nutritional as fresh goods. In fact, if you’re not eating the freshest food, frozen could be the way to go.

In a study, fresh peas were found to lose 15 per cent of their vitamin C after seven days when stored in the fridge, and 60 per cent when stored at room temperature. However, when frozen, they only lost 10 per cent after 12 months.

EAT: Opt for frozen peas and stock up with frozen berries for postrun smoothies. Frozen spinach is a great option if you find those leafy greens wilting in the back of your fridge.

Canned

Tinned fruit and veg tend to have a bad reputation. Some tinned foods undergo a lot of processing to lengthen their shelf lives, such as blanching and the addition of salt, syrup or additives.

These processes can also affect nutrients, particularly water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C.

And some tins are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical associated with an increased risk of cancer, so opt for BPA-free tins when possible.

But there are instances where tinned is best. The heating process used in preserving tinned tomatoes makes the antioxidant lycopene more bioavailable.

EAT: Tinned tomatoes are great for cooking up a postrun stew or curry. Tins of pulses such as cannellini beans, chickpeas and lentils tend to undergo minimal processing and, therefore, retain their nutrients.

Conclusion:

The bioavailability of nutrients we consume differs from food to food, with some benefiting from these processing methods and others suffering.

Freezing and canning have their pros and cons, which can vary depending on the food. The bottom line is that packing your diet with a variety of vegetables is hugely beneficial, however you’re sourcing them.

Nothing beats the nutrient density (and tastiness) of grow-your-own freshness, but for convenience and health rolled into one, frozen is often a great option.

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