While we love fresh fruits and vegetables, they aren’t always readily available. It’s hard to find fresh asparagus and strawberries after June, just as local tomatoes and sweet corn aren’t typically available before midsummer. (Related: What’s in Season in Your State?)
That’s why we often turn to canned and frozen versions when our favorite ingredients aren’t an option.
However, many of us have probably heard the rumor that fresh produce always contains more nutrients than their preserved counterparts. Luckily, a recent study has officially disproved that theory. (Related: Preserving Produce: Storing and Freezing)
Though the fresh produce does contain more vitamins and nutrients when first picked, that nutritional value deteriorates over time. And depending on how far your food came from – especially during winter months when fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t readily available in the majority of the U.S. – you’ll typically find canned or frozen produce contain equal amounts or even more nutrients.
“Frozen vegetables are just as nutrient-rich as fresh,” registered dietitian Kim Galeaz explains. “They’ve been frozen and packed immediately after harvesting, and that means all the nutrients are retained.” (Related: How to Freeze Fresh Berries)
Canned fruits and vegetables can lose some nutritional value, according to the New York Times, but over all, the nutrients in canned produce remains relatively stable due to protection from the deteriorating effects of oxygen. Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently published a report about this topic in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, in which they stated: “Fresh fruits and vegetables usually lose nutrients more rapidly than canned or frozen products. Losses of nutrients during fresh storage may be more substantial than consumers realize.” They also noted that nutrition labels on fresh produce may be inaccurate, as a result of the nutrient loss. (Related: Home Canning and Pickling Basics)
So, take advantage of summer’s bounty of fresh vegetables now, but rest assured that canned and frozen produce remain healthy, nutritious options, no matter the season.