Many of us have been brought up to believe that fresh produce is the most nutritious. But are fresh fruits really better for your nutrition than frozen fruits?
We have to keep in mind that fruits are at their most nutritious when ripe. They begin to lose valuable vitamins and minerals from the moment they are harvested. Even after harvest, fruits continue to lose certain vitamins the more they are exposed to air. Vitamin C, for example, is known to be particularly sensitive to air and light. Fruits slowly lose their vitamin C content the more they are exposed after being harvested.
Fresh fruits are mostly harvested just before they ripen. This is because they are usually transported for long distances. If they were harvested when ripe, they would spoil before making it to their destination. Sometimes, fresh fruits are artificially ripened along the way. Organic chemicals are manually added to control the ripening process.
Fresh fruits start off at a disadvantage because they are not harvested when ripe. The long journeys some of them have to take to get to us also reduce their nutritional value. This is because the more time that elapses between harvesting and consuming, the more nutrients are lost. So, a lot of the time, the fresh fruits we eventually consume aren’t at their peak in terms of nutrition.
Frozen fruits are harvested at peak ripeness. This is done to make up for any nutrients that might be lost due to handling, or in storage. They are then speed-frozen under nitrogen. Extra vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid and sugar may be added to prevent spoiling. The process of freezing fresh fruits typically takes under 3 hours. This is especially true if there’s no need for extra processing (like chopping or peeling) like in the case of green peas.
After freezing, vitamins and minerals are locked into the fruit. There will be very minimal loss of nutrients, especially if the fruits are kept refrigerated and consumed within a year.
The bottom line: Which is more nutritious?
Fresh fruits lose fewer nutrients over time than frozen fruits. As long as they are consumed within a year, they retain up to 90% of their original nutrients. Studies have shown that the level of beneficial nutrients in frozen fruits are about the same as that in fresh fruits, if not more. However, this doesn’t account for nutrients lost in frozen fruits upon heating them. This is why it is advisable to just let the frozen fruits thaw at room temperature when you’re about to consume them. The bottom line is, fruits are very nutritious, regardless of the form in which they come. It’s best to consume both fresh and frozen fruits, depending on your needs. Quite a number of people go for frozen fruits simply because they are more convenient. If you’re going for fresh fruits, make sure to eat them as soon as possible, to avoid nutrient loss. If you’re going for frozen foods, make sure to refrigerate them properly and prevent them from thawing out.