It s common knowledge that fruits and veggies are good for us, and it s commonly assumed that they should be fresh to mine the benefits of all the nutrients they contribute to our diets. A corollary seems to be that processed produce, e.g. frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, are a poor second choice. Is this true? Not always, as noted by Anahad O Connor in his Really? column in The New York Times.
Although it s true that nutrient content is maximal when produce is picked when ripe and consumed shortly thereafter, unless one has personal access to a garden or farm, it s difficult to know exactly how long it s been since your apple or yam has been harvested. Further, as O Connor points out, degradation occurs during shipping, and produce sold in many markets often sits on shelves or in storage for days.
However, fruits and vegetables that are destined for the freezer or cannery are typically picked at the peak of ripeness and processed in short order. Freezing and canning preserve the nutrients in the foods to a large extent. Indeed, these processes enhance our access to year-round fruits and vegetables.
This is not to say that fresh produce is devoid of nutrients. Rather, comments ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava, it simply means that we shouldn t turn up our noses at frozen and canned foods. In addition to retaining much of their nutrients, these processed foods are often more economical than fresh foods purchased out of season.