Busy schedules and metropolitan areas far removed from the agricultural meccas where our ancestors once toiled have prompted the food industry to provide a solution to the gap in time between a ripened food being picked and the time it is placed on one's dinner plate. Their answer to this gap is frozen food. Fast and convenient, frozen food can be found in just about any home, but is frozen food as healthy as fresh food? The only accurate answers to this quandary is: it depends.
Certainly, fresh food tastes better and logically, it seems food in its most natural form would surely be healthier, but it's a bit more complicated than that. When food is picked as soon as it has ripened and is purchased straight from the farm, it is in its most nutritious state. However, the fruits and vegetables found in the produce section of a grocery store are usually picked before they have ripened. That's how food manufacturers keep them from spoiling during transport from farm to store. Each day that passes after food is plucked from the farm means the nutritive value has depleted a bit more.
However, if manufacturers intend to freeze foods, they allow them to ripen longer, then freeze them immediately after picking when they are at the peak of healthiness. The freezing process causes some loss of vitamins and minerals, but frozen food retains the remaining nutritive value for up to a year. Without testing individual foods, there is no way of knowing if the frozen berries or fresh berries in your local grocery store are the better choice.
There are a few rules to follow that will ensure the best outcome. If fruits and vegetables are in season, buy them fresh. Seasonal produce is more likely to come from local growers, thus shortening the transport time and lessening the depletion of nutrients. If out of season produce is desired, head to the frozen section. It's more likely a frozen food will be healthier than a fresh out of season item that has been transported from a great distance. Out of season produce can be up to two weeks old by the time it's purchased from a grocery store.
When preparing frozen vegetables it is best not to thaw them. Vegetables retain more vitamin C when cooked from their frozen state. Frozen fruits are usually good for up to 12 months, and frozen vegetables are good for 12 to 24 months. Whether fresh or frozen is selected, the best tip is just to eat a wide variety of both, because some vitamins and minerals are always better than none.