Joy Manyama |04 October 2017

I bet at the back of your mind you are already thinking, “Duh? fresh produce!”, but what if I put it to you that, that may not be the whole truth?  According to food technologists, and recent studies, it has been found that preserved foods may be healthier than the fresh produce we buy from the markets and keep at home.  For the purposes of this article, preserved foods will be limited to canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.

The nutritional value of preserved foods is generally comparable to that of fresh foods and, in some cases, it may even be higher in the former. While the canning or freezing process may cause some loss of nutrients which can vary by nutrient, generally, these losses are small and are not substantially different from the losses that may occur in fresh produce during the storage at home/supermarket. Depending on the produce item, canning and freezing may preserve some of the nutritional value and increase the availability of some nutrients to the body; i.e. Miller (2014) suggests that “the processes undertaken to freeze fresh produce may increase the availability of fibre to the body by making it more soluble”.

Czarnowska M, et al. (2012), conducted a study that looked at the nutritional value of fresh and preserved foods and concluded that each can contribute to a healthy diet. Canned fruits and vegetables should be consumed within 8 months, and frozen fruits within 12 months (4-6 months for citrus fruits). Furthermore, including frozen and canned foods in one’s diet can increase the variety of fruits and vegetables since some items may not be widely available as fresh during different seasons. Canned, frozen, and fresh produce are equally economical depending on the time of year and the specific fruit or vegetable.

Innovative Food Science & Emerging technologies compared fresh produce from a supermarket with frozen varieties such as peas, green beans, carrots, spinach and broccoli and found the antioxidant activity and nutritional content to be similar. The loss of nutrients reported in frozen produce, are generally insignificant. Frozen fruits and vegetables may have higher levels of vitamin C than fresh produce that has been stored at home for several days. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables from the farm are of the highest quality. However, if you are shopping at the supermarket, frozen produce may be equal to, or in some cases, even more nutritious than fresh varieties.