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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Which Is Healthiest: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Produce?

GettyImages-626119746Since you were young you probably have been told to eat your fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are the nutritional powerhouses of your diet. They offer essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that not only keep your body healthy, but also protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other health conditions. During the winter months, fresh fruits and vegetables are more limited and generally more expensive. As a result, many of us turn to canned or frozen options. So are canned and frozen options just as healthy as the fresh produce we consume?

Frozen Versus Fresh

Gene Lester, Ph.D., a plant physiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Center states, “Frozen vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets.” Frozen fruits and vegetables are generally picked at their peak ripeness—a time when they are most nutrient-packed. After they are picked, they are blanched in hot water or steamed to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes. Then they are frozen, locking nutrients in place.

Conversely, fresh fruits and vegetables are shipped across the country to reach our fresh-produce aisles. These produce items are typically picked before they are ripe. As a result, they have less time to develop the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Although signs of ripening may still occur, these foods never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine, plant, or tree.

In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables may spend as much as seven to fourteen days in transit. From the time they are picked to the time they are in your refrigerator, they are exposed to light, heat, and air, which degrade some nutrients. If you have the option to purchase fresh produce from locally grown farmers’ markets, this is your best choice. At local farmers’ markets, fruits and vegetables are grown, picked, and sold when their quality is best (and they are usually cheaper). Check out these fall options. Although they are limited during the winter months, seek out markets that remain available with produce grown in greenhouses.

Canned Versus Frozen

What about canned fruits and vegetables? Similar to frozen produce, canned fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and canned soon after. So the produce is nutrient packed. With vegetables, however, excess sodium is generally added to each serving. If you choose to eat canned vegetables, be sure to buy cans marked “No Salt Added” or drain and rinse the vegetables in water prior to serving. Canned fruits are also saturated in excess sugar and syrups. Again, if you choose to eat canned fruits, be sure to buy cans marked “No Sugar Added” or drain and rinse the fruit prior to serving.

The Bottom Line

When fruits and vegetables are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe from your local farmers’ market. In the off-season, frozen fruits and vegetables may be your best choice because they are the most nutrient-concentrated. However, if you are in a bind, produce in any form is better than none at all.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fruits and vegetables seasonal eating winter nutrition healthy eating

Fall Superfoods: Recipes for Delicious, Healthy Eating

GettyImages-531781862The air is crisp, football season is in full swing, and the plentiful bounty of summer’s gardens is all gone. Instead of reverting back to the frozen fruit and veggie staples that are typical of fall and winter, experiment with some of the tasty foods that give fall the name the harvest season!

Favorite Fruits and Vegetables for Seasonal Eating

Here are some of my favorite fall foods and the nutrients they provide.

  • Apples: Easy and portable for a lunch bag or a snack. They are also high in fiber and can help decrease cholesterol. (Read more about apple nutrition.)
  • Acorn squash: Packed with Vitamin A and C to keep your immune system healthy during flu season.
  • Brussels sprouts: These little balls of cabbage are known to be cancer fighters.
  • Grapefruit: Citrus comes into season in late fall, so grab these pink treats that are high in fiber and immune-boosting properties.
  • Parsnips: Not as starchy as a potato and loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Pears: Another fruit that comes in season in the fall and is full of Vitamin C and fiber.
  • Pumpkin: The most popular of the fall produce is great for more than decorating! One cup of canned pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber, which is one-third of your daily needs.
  • Spaghetti squash: This fun alternative to pasta is high in beta carotene, potassium, and antioxidants.
  • Turnips: Surprisingly high in Vitamin C; if you eat the greens, you add a ton of Vitamins A, C, B6, and calcium and magnesium.

Fall Recipes

Try these recipes as a way to incorporate some of these fall powerhouse foods into your meals.

Turnip, Apple, and Acorn Squash Soup

1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped
3 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
3 small or 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped acorn squash, turnips, apples, and salt and pepper to pot and continue to cook on medium for 5–10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until ingredients are softened, about 45 minutes.
  3. Once ingredients are softened, add water or low-sodium vegetable broth and continue to cook for another 5–10 minutes on medium heat until soup is warm.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add through blender or food processor, or use immersion blender.
  5. Garnish with fresh or dried cilantro and serve. Serves 4.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Pistachios

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
3 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 pear, halved lengthwise and cored
¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped coarsely
Juice of ½ large lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the prepared Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and pour on the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the pear halves, cut sides-down, on the baking sheet, making sure there is enough oil to coat their cut surfaces.
  2. Roast the Brussels sprouts and pear for about 20 minutes. Then turn the Brussels sprouts so that both sides become caramelized. Check the pear—it might not be caramelized at this point.
  3. After another 10 minutes, turn the Brussels sprouts again. Flip the pear. Reduce the oven heat to 375°F.
  4. Add the pistachios—you just want to heat them up and toast them slightly. 
  5. After 5 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Squeeze lemon juice directly over all the ingredients. Use your spatula to chop up the pear halves. Toss everything thoroughly. Serves 2.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: fruits and vegetables fall recipes healthy eating nutrition holidays seasonal eating