Talk about a disconnect.
For at least the last 30 years, every health organization has been recommending people eat more vegetables and fruits. A few reasons for the veggie/fruit recommendation is that they are high in essential vitamins and minerals, rich in fiber and since they contain substances such as polyphenols, they reduce risk of many chronic diseases.
And yet a 2013 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 33 percent of adults consume less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day. I see this same minimal intake with my patients.
Consumers often cite lack of tasty fresh produce or spoilage issues with a reason for marginal intake. And my one word answer to this is “frozen.” When I recommend frozen veggies or fruits to my patients, or while teaching medical students, I often get a look of disbelief. But this is research-based advice.
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A study published last month in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis evaluated the amounts of vitamin C, beta carotene and folate in blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, spinach and green peas. The forms of produce analyzed were fresh, frozen and what they termed fresh stored. Fresh stored is fresh produce that has been in the refrigerator for five days.
In general, the majority of comparisons yielded no significant difference. When there was a significant difference, there was a generally consistent observation that five days of refrigerated storage led to lower vitamin levels. The study also found that frozen produce had significantly higher nutrient content than fresh stored more frequently than the inverse.
If you are buying fresh produce, eat it as soon as you can after purchase for the greatest nutrition value. Frozen is as nourishing as fresh and in certain situations, more nutritious. Frozen fruit is great for smoothies, and after defrosting, perfect for adding to cereal, oatmeal and even homemade granola. Frozen is often less expensive and you can take what you need and save the rest for the future without losing nutritional value.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.