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Frozen Vegetables & Nutrition

by Janelle Commins

About Janelle Commins

Janelle Commins started writing professionally in 2007. She has written for the "UCLA Total Wellness" magazine on nutrition and fitness topics that are of interest to young adults. Her work has also appeared in various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition science from University of California, Davis, and a Master of Science in public health from University of California, Los Angeles.

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Frozen vegetables are a convenient way to meet your five fruits and vegetables a day. They are a competitive alternative to fresh or canned vegetables for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact frozen vegetables can be higher in nutrients than their fresh counterparts.

Benefits of Frozen Vegetables

Both fresh and frozen vegetables have pros and cons. Frozen vegetables are processed at the peak of their freshness yielding high nutrient concentrations, have a longer shelf-life than fresh vegetables, require little preparation and are available year-round. On the other hand, frozen vegetables may have added salts, sugar, or fats which lower their nutritional value, and freezing does change taste and texture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a report in 1998 stating that frozen vegetables have the same nutrients and health benefits as their fresh counterparts.

Comparison to Fresh Vegetables

Fresh vegetables are considered superior to frozen or canned in part because consumers enjoy the ability to touch, taste, smell, and see fresh vegetables before purchase. Fresh vegetables are more diverse because they vary by season, and offer a more natural flavor. However, fresh vegetables can go bad before they are used or eaten; it may be difficult to know when it is ripe; and they may be less economical than their frozen or canned counterparts. Fresh vegetables that are transported over long distances or sit around too long are suspected to lose some nutritional value, whereas frozen vegetables are processed at the peak of freshness, which yields maximum nutrients.

Freezing Vegetables

Fresh vegetables naturally have enzymes that help them to ripen by changing the taste, smell, texture, and nutrients. It is these enzymes that make apples slices turn a brown color, and broccoli flowers turn from green to yellow. When left alone, the enzymes will change not only the color but the taste, texture, smell, and nutrients, too. In order to deactivate the enzymes, fresh vegetables are blanched before they are frozen. Blanching is the process of immersing the fresh vegetable in boiling hot water for a short period of time -- long enough to deactivate the enzyme, but short enough to prevent the vegetable from cooking. After blanching, the vegetable is quickly cooled in ice water to prevent it from cooking further, and then frozen.

Popularity and Availability

The most popular types of frozen vegetables in the United States include green peas, carrots, corn, spinach, lima beans, green beans and broccoli. Frozen yams are very popular in China. Frozen vegetables may be sold in rectangular packages or plastic bags by weight or volume in the frozen food aisle. Frozen vegetables are available year-round in most supermarkets selling frozen foods. They can be transported over long distances without compromising any shelf-life, leading to their presence in supermarkets, small grocery stores, and even convenience stores nationwide.

Warnings

Consumers are advised not to defrost frozen vegetables before cooking. This is to prevent harmful bacterial growth and to preserve the taste and texture of the vegetables. Most vegetables can be stored in the freezer at zero degrees F from 12 to 18 months. While the nutrient content will remain the same during this time, the taste and texture of the vegetable may be compromised.

Photo Credits:

  • Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.