When asked to choose between fresh or frozen produce these days, the average consumer is likely to opt for fresh. While some might even believe fresh produce is “obviously” better than frozen, the theory may not actually hold up to scrutiny, NPR suggests. Despite cultural beliefs, there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that frozen fruits and veggies are less nutritious than their fresh counterparts. In fact, fixation on fresh produce has led to an increase in food waste in recent years.
“About 43 percent of all food waste occurs in consumers’ homes,” said JoAnne Berkenkamp, advocate of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a 2017 interview with the Washington Post. “It’s the largest single contributor to food waste, and much of that will be fresh product.”
While most people buy fresh produce thinking it will be consumed in a timely manner, evidence suggests otherwise (1). Most fresh produce has a short shelf life and the average consumer tends to buy more than needed in a single trip. Worse still, fear of “imperfections” with fruit and veggies has lead to perfectly-fine items being left to rot on the shelves (2).
Consumers who recognize their own wasteful tendencies might hesitate to switch to frozen due to the current cultural climate of “fresh is better.” In truth, most frozen produce options contain an appropriate dose of vitamins and nutrients (3).
The best way to judge frozen purchases is by looking at the ingredients. Frozen products that contain exclusively produce will boast much more nutritional value than options containing processed seasonings or sauces (4). Additionally, frozen produce prepared through blanching methods should be avoided, as this might reduce the nutritional quality of the product.
Fresh produce might be all the rage, but there is little evidence to suggest frozen produce isn’t just as good. Consumers who want the health benefits of fresh produce without the fear of it going to waste in a crisper drawer may find frozen options offer a practical and efficient choice.