Especially during the winter months, fresh produce is limited - or expensive - in most of the country, which forces many of us to turn to either canned or frozen fruits and veggies. While canned vegetables tend to lose a lot of nutrients during the preservation process (some notable exceptions are tomatoes and pumpkin), frozen vegetables may be even more healthy than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) both agree that nutrients in produce are generally NOT lost during freezing and they provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Once a fruit or vegetable is picked, it starts to lose nutrients, so exactly when it's plucked, and how long after harvesting you eat it, impacts its nutritional value. Did you know that fresh produce can lose as much as 45% of its essential nutrients from the time it leaves the farm to the time it makes it to your table — a period that can last as long as 16 days? These berries, melons, greens, etc., are often exposed to pesticides, extreme heat, and light during transport, which further decreases their freshness and nutritional value.
On the other hand, most frozen fruits and vegetables are quickly blanched, boiled, or steamed, and then frozen within a few hours of being picked, a process that helps lock in both fresh taste and nutritional value. Since the freezing process actually preserves food, no unwanted additives (e.g. no added salt or sugar) are needed in bags of frozen pineapples or broccoli, for examples. Therefore, it's pretty easy to find fruits and veggies with single word ingredient lists-- just the fruit or veggie itself. To be sure, always check the ingredients, but I bet you'll find at least a 10 varieties in the freezer aisle with absolutely nothing added - definitely a win-win!
Also, you'll want to be sure to choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color. These vegetables tend to be more nutrient-rich than the lower grades (“U.S. No. 1” or “U.S. No. 2.”). Also, try not to wait too long to eat them after purchasing: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do decrease. Steam (don't microwave) rather than boil your produce so that you can retain as much of the water-soluble vitamins as you can.
Try Any or All of These 15 Healthy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables:
Catechins found in blueberries activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells to assist with weight loss, and belly fat loss in particular. According to research at Tufts University, regularly ingesting catechins increases abdominal fat loss by 77 percent and double total weight loss.
Additionally, blueberries are one of the richest sources of proanthocyanidins, which are phytonutrients that decrease free radical levels that are linked to aging (say goodbye to wrinkles!) and disease.
Keep these berries on hand to boost the flavor and nutrients in your protein shakes, or add frozen blueberries to hot cereal.
These fruits are high in calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. They also help keep the skin healthy. Vitamin A and C make peaches a great natural moisturizer which is why they’re often used in cosmetics. These vitamins can help regenerate skin tissue.
For a healthy dessert, bake one peach with cinnamon and a touch of agave, then top with low-fat frozen yogurt. Yummy!
It’s also a huge cancer-fighter. Broccoli contains something called sulforaphane, which may help combat prostate, liver, lung, bladder, skin, and stomach cancer. Plus it’s rich in compounds that boost healthy tumor suppressors—and destroy ineffective ones.
Broccoli is great fuel, because with 5 grams of fiber per cup, it helps you fill up fast. And...it’s only about 55 calories per cup. Add some to your omelet to make it even more delicious.
Another good reason to eat green beans is that they are packed with vitamin A. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect you against cancer, heart disease and high blood cholesterol. Vitamin A is also known for eliminating signs of skin aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, dull skin and age spots.
You can throw frozen carrots (right out of the bag) into stews and soups. If you prefer them tender, add them early in the cooking process; for more crunch, add them near the end.
7) Spinach is packed with cancer-reducing antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, and is also a rich source of iron.
According to Gloria Tsang, RD, spinach is a source of non-heme iron, which is found in vegetable sources and is not as bioavailable to the body as the heme iron found in animal products, e.g. meat. Raw spinach contains oxalic acid or oxalate, which naturally binds with minerals like calcium and iron, making them harder for the body to absorb. Cooking spinach helps make iron more available to your body. If you are going to eat raw spinach and other iron-rich foods, perhaps pair them with the following iron absorption enhancers:
- Meat, fish, or poultry
- Fruits: Oranges, orange juice, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit, and other Vitamin-C-rich fruits
- Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tomato juice, potatoes, and green and red peppers
- White wine
8) Cauliflower is a cruciferous veggie that helps reduce the risk of cancer, particularly prostate, bladder, and colon cancers because it's full of vitamin C, a proven antioxidant that boosts immunity and protects against cancer.
It’s also an excellent, low-calorie source of potassium, (for example, one cup of the chopped raw vegetable has only 27 calories, as compared to a banana, which has 105.)
Watching your carbs? This filling, nutrient-rich vegetable will satisfy your craving for something starchy—so chop in the food processor, then steam in a covered dish for an alternative to rice.
|By ThorPorre (Own work) |
via Wikimedia Commons
An easy way to prepare them is to just throw them on a flat cooking pan or cookie sheet with a little olive oil and chopped garlic, then roast at 400° for 30 – 35 minutes.
|source: Wikimedia Commons|
The squash is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, and is related to melons, cucumbers, and gourds. It is harvested in the Fall, winter squash, which include pumpkin varieties, are distinguished from zucchini and other summer squash by their dry, hard skin and long shelf-life that extends through the winter. With the their diverse shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors, heirloom winter squashes are grown for their remarkable appearances as well as their distinct flavors.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed nearly 90,000 subjects for six and a half years and found those who ate the most fiber gained less weight than those who had a low-fiber diet. "Fiber can slow digestion," says sports dietitian and runner Cara Marrs, RD, "which keeps you full."
A medium-sized artichoke that weighs about 125 grams has: Protein (4 g), Carbs (13 g), Fat (0.05 g), Cholesterol - 0, Fiber (6.5 g) Calcium (50 mg), Iron (1 mg), Potassium (470 mg), Phosphorous (110 mg), Magnesium (75 mg), Zinc (0.5 mg), Sodium (115 mg), and Vitamins A, B, E and K.
Nutrition Journal study discovered blackberries have about twice as much antioxidant power—including potent anthocyanins—as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. "Anthocyanins may help reduce the damage to muscle cells brought on by training that can lead to muscle soreness," says Scritchfield. Each cup of frozen blackberries contains 8 grams of fiber and a wealth of manganese, a mineral necessary for strong bones and healthy muscle connective tissue.
You can eat these delicious mango chunks right out of the bag or mash them in a bowl for a homemade version of Italian ices. One cup is just 120 calories!
15) Raspberries are low in calories and saturated fats, but are a wonderful source of dietary fiber and
Like other berries, raspberries have very high levels of phytochemicals. Scientific studies show that these antioxidant compounds in these berries have potential health benefits against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neuro-degenerative diseases.
Fun Fact: Have you heard of the low-calorie sugar substitute, Xylitol? Well, it's actually extracted from raspberries (who knew? I sure didn't)! A teaspoonful of Xylitol contains just 9.6 calories - compared to that of sugar - 15 calories per teaspoon. Plus, Xylitol absorbs more slowly in the intestines than sugar and does not contribute to high glycemic index, and thus, can be helpful in diabetics.
One of my favorite things about keeping frozen foods on hand is that they don't require any washing, peeling, or chopping - thank goodness! Since frozen produce is prep-free, it can save you a ton of time, allowing you to make healthy dishes at home, instead of giving into ordering takeout.
Secondly, frozen produce is available year-round, and in most cases is cheaper than fresh - with that being said, how can you not give them a try?
Elena White is the founder and editor of Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother. Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.