The Department of Health recommends at least five portions of vegetables or fruit a day for a healthy balanced diet. However, the fresh vegetables you bought at the supermarket have already gone bad and there isn’t always time to dash to the farmers’ market for your daily dose.
So what are your alternatives?
“Frozen vegetables can provide a guilt-free solution by offering comparable nutritional values to that of fresh vegetables straight from the farm,” says Jenny Meyer, registered dietician at MME Dieticians, “However despite continuing global research which has shown that frozen vegetables measure up to and may in some cases exceed expectations of fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables are still often overlooked based on habit and the misbelief that fresh is the only way to go.”
Frozen vs. fresh vegetables
Both fresh and frozen vegetables start off from the earth, it’s only the route they take from the farm to your plate that differs.
The journey that fresh produce takes before reaching the supermarket can sometimes be over an extended period of time. It is important to use fresh vegetables as soon as possible to get the most out of them. However the period that passes between picking, buying and consuming fresh vegetables can take up to two weeks and in that time they begin to deteriorate, losing nutritional value, taste and texture by being exposed to air and light.
In contrast, frozen vegetables are picked and frozen on the same day ensuring you are essentially getting that ‘just picked’ nutrient value throughout.
“McCain works closely with local farmers to make sure vegetables are picked at their peak so that consumers are provided with the best quality produce in every pack. The nutritional, time-saving and convenience benefits, amongst others, of frozen vegetables have shown that they are an ideal choice for a nutritious balanced diet, making it easier to follow the 5-a-day programme and a healthy lifestyle,” says Greg Foster, marketing manager at leading frozen vegetable company McCain Foods SA.
Frozen vegetables are prepared to minimise nutrient loss
From harvest, farm fresh vegetables are transported to the factory immediately where they are instantly steam blanched - quick steaming at a high temperature to minimise nutrient loss and deactivate the enzymes that are responsible for deterioration. Once blanched, the vegetables are quick-frozen using a unique method of freezing that cannot be replicated in your home which locks in all their same-day goodness. From there, they are packed and delivered ensuring optimum nutrition and taste with no additives or preservatives.
Fresh produce that is eaten immediately after it is picked will always offer the most relative nutritional value. However fresh vegetables have a limited shelf life and how often are you presented with vegetables directly from the farm that have not been sitting on a supermarket shelf or in a refrigerator for a number of days, and being handled by numerous people?
Nutrient losses in frozen vegetables are minimal during shipping, in the supermarket freezer and while frozen in your home. Studies conducted by food researchers at the University of California’s Centre for Excellence in Fruit & Vegetable Quality indicated that in most cases the mineral, vitamin and fibre content of the various fruits and vegetables tested showed that frozen produce retains the same amount of nutrients (if not more) compared to their fresh counterparts.
Freezing is a natural way of preventing bacterial growth in food and the vegetable’s nutritional quality can remain high for up to 18 months, thereby guaranteeing that ‘locked in’ goodness and taste.
Serve up tasty, healthy vegetables
For best quality, frozen foods should be kept at freezing temperatures at all times whether in the supermarket or at home. It is recommended that your home freezer temperature be maintained at -18°C and never let the vegetables thaw.
Taste is often another misconception consumers have about frozen vegetables. The preparation of frozen differs from those used for fresh vegetables and there is often a tendency to overcook them. By following the simple on-pack cooking instructions and using the correct amount of water you will get great tasting vegetables every time.
“Understanding the route that frozen vegetables take to get from the farm to your plate should help to dispel some of the myths surrounding the category and offer consumers even more benefits to using frozen vegetables.” concludes Foster.
For more information about McCain, visit www.mccain.co.za
Sources: Rhianon Davies and Amanda Barrett, MA. True or False: Fresh Food Is Better Than Frozen or Canned Food. Health Library™ Evidence-based information. and Bennion M & Schedule B. 2000. Introductory Foods. 11th edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc. pp. 320, 663, 687.
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