There is a common belief that fresh is best and buying frozen veggies is a cop-out, but this is certainly not the case on the nutrition front.
Frozen veggies are not as inferior as you might think, says registered dietician Andrea Du Plessis.
Dieticians always recommended that you eat fresh fruit and vegetables, as processing is likely to reduce or compromise the nutritional quality of the food, Du Plessis says.
“Freezing is certainly processing, and it was thought this process would destroy the vitamins and minerals naturally occurring in food. However, research has shown that the freezing process does not destroy nutrients and in fact effectively preserves the nutritional content of foods.”
She explains that fresh produce generally provides higher nutrient concentration if it is really fresh.
“It is important to note that ‘fresh’ is a relative term. What we perceive to be fresh produce in our local supermarket may range from freshly picked, organically grown, to produce that appears fresh, but was picked almost a year ago and may not even have been grown in nutritious soil.”
Vegetables destined for freezing are freshly picked, cleaned, and blanched and then flash frozen. “The rapid freezing process prevents large ice crystals from forming, to help preserve the texture of the food.”
Du Plessis adds that, “Eating frozen vegetables may not be as bad as we think, especially considering that they may even contain higher levels of nutrients than many of the vegetables we perceive to be fresh, but that have been in prolonged and controlled storage, before being artificially ripened.”
Du Plessis’ sentiments are echoed by McCain’s marketing manager for foodservice and retail, Catharina Bester, who says frozen produce is fresher than you think.
“Our produce is sustainably sourced from local farmers, harvested at its peak and snap frozen within hours to maintain freshness and lock in nutrients,” says Bester.
Let’s get real about frozen produce
Bester adds, frozen produce could be a lifesaver for quick meal solutions. “Frozen packs come out tops from a convenience, lifespan, and waste-reduction point of view.”
We asked Bester to share some insights dispelling some of the common misconceptions when it comes to frozen products:
Noluthando Ngcakani: I think a common myth surrounding frozen foods is their freshness? Does freezing produce at all affect their freshness?
Catharina Bester: Freezing is a safe and natural way of preventing bacterial growth and enzyme activity and eliminates the need for undesirable chemical preservatives.
Contrary to popular belief, freezing causes very little nutrient loss and preserves the vitamins and minerals in food, so all those fantastic nutrients end up on your dinner table, meaning you get a nutritional meal every time. Frozen produce is packed with nutritional value and provides the easiest way for you and your family to get your daily nutrition.
NN: We have seen prices of produce fluctuate, tell me is frozen produce at all more expensive than a fresh bag of vegetables or fruit?
CB: Frozen foods have a much longer shelf-life than fresh produce and you only use what you need so there is less wastage. Meaning you get more broccoli for your buck, and not to mention less frequent visits to the store.
The meal options are endless – from quick snacks, tasty potato chips and wedges, stir-fries, pasta sauces and toppings and even baking.
NN: What makes frozen produce so convenient?
CB: There is no way around it, frozen vegetables are a win on a busy weeknight. The cleaning and chopping have all been done for you, so all you need to do is take it out of your freezer, cook according to the on-pack instructions, and serve.
We all know the feeling of reaching for some veggies in the fridge, only to find that it’s expired or heading to the shops to get a specific ingredient, and not being able to find it. By keeping your freezer stocked with frozen vegetables and potato products, you know you’ll have what you need, ready to go, when you need it.