Mythbusting: Fresh vs. Frozen

One of the reasons why I started writing this blog is because I wanted a forum to address the abundance of misinformation I see and hear regularly about food and nutrition. Last week I came across such an item in my daily newspaper – not some chump rag but the Washington Post, of all things – that was so misleading I was shocked that Post editors actually printed it. The main point – in fact, the headline – was to convince readers why fresh is better than frozen. However, the points made contained broad generalizations and half-truths, comparing the best of fresh with the worst of frozen.

The fact is, there is a place in a healthy diet for all types of food: fresh, frozen, dried, canned, squeezed, juiced, etc. Since it’s now summertime, with fresh produce in abundance at farmers markets and on sale in grocery store, it’s easy to forget certain benefits of choosing packaged or frozen foods. I regularly dig into my freezer when I make a home cooked meal, no matter the season. But I digress – let’s tackle the issues:

  • I have not come across any scientific basis to support the author’s point about freezing decreasing the nutrient value of a meal, especially since her next few sentences are about vegetables and fruits. The frozen vs. fresh argument here is totally out of place and seriously misleading. Fresh in-season produce that’s picked and harvested at its prime do tend to deliver more nutrients than if the same produce is picked before it is ripe. But fruits and vegetables destined for the freezer case have been picked at their prime then flash-frozen to seal in the nutrients. So you might actually get more nutrients in your frozen blueberries than you would eating the same berries picked in the spring (blueberries hit their peak in July, typically). Just be sure your bag of frozen berries doesn’t have added sugar, or the box of frozen veggies doesn’t have added preservatives or artificial flavors.
  • Related to this point — did you know that canned pumpkin and tomatoes deliver more nutrients than their raw versions? That’s partly because the canning process involves heating the food at high temperatures, which makes nutrients such as lycopene in tomatoes, available to be better absorbed by the body. So chalk one up in favor of processed over fresh.
  • The point about fresh fruits having higher water content and are thus more hydrating is true – but it’s also true that dried fruits deliver more iron…so there’s that. If you’re really worried about hydration, drink an extra glass or two of water.
  • And while I might be inclined to agree that in theory a home-cooked meal is perhaps a better alternative to a frozen TV dinner, I would also agree that homemade spaghetti carbonara is less healthful than a frozen, portion-controlled meal. Though its true many packaged and frozen meals may have ingredient lists as long as the box they come in, there are many nutritious frozen foods and meals with wholesome, recognizable ingredients. Read the label.

The bottom line here, folks: don’t knock it because it’s frozen (or canned, or dried, or – gasp! – processed). Just know what you’re eating, even if it means looking at ingredients on the side of a box, can or carton.

Photo credits: iStockphoto

Published by

Elana Natker, MS, RD

I'm a dietitian, communications professional, wife, mother - just your typical modern-day woman trying to juggle it all.

18 thoughts on “Mythbusting: Fresh vs. Frozen

  1. Wonderfully written and insightful Elana! It is so hard to sift the credible information out of the tons of opinions about health & nutrition, thank you for supporting your thoughts and for sharing!


  2. Loved this post! So true. So many things, like freezing food, are blown out of proportion. The fact is it’s tough for many Americans to find the time to cook fresh food all the time. By allowing themselves some breathing room, more people are likely to actually stay on track with their eating habits and maintain a healthy weight.


  3. Gary Sethi is breaking stereotypes. As the first South Asian Sardar Fitness trailblazer, he is taking the fitness and modelling world by storm. His goal is simple – inspire every South Asian to be healthy and fit, while showcasing South Asian Sardars in a positive light. Within that goal, Gary works to address physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements of individual fitness programs. Gary Sethi is breaking stereotypes. As the first South Asian Sardar Fitness trailblazer, he is taking the fitness and modelling world by storm.


  4. This blows me away. I’ve been working on juicing and smoothies and stuff primarily because of the “freshness” aspect of it. If it’s really true that sometimes that’s not the best, I’ll have to reevaluate!


  5. I have to admit: I too thought that fresh meant more nutritious. And this inspires me to do some of my own digging! Thanks for food for thought 🙂

    Although I always lead a health-conscious lifestyle, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to quit my career as an insurance and mortgage broker and retrain for a career in nutrition.

    In that time, I learned a great deal and too started a blog as a way to educate friends and family about our current (corrupted to its core) food production system and demonstrate that eating well is not only enjoyable but also affordable.


  6. This is a great post! It is so important to know what is in your food and how to properly cook and eat it. A lot of nutrients can be lost due to overcooking or improper cooking. Also I think a lot of people should take into habit reading food labels because a lot of them are misleading. For example things that say fat-free, calorie-free, sugar-free etc. As far as I know if there is 0.5grams of less of fat per serving, the companies are allowed to state on the packaging that it is fat-free, however if you ear four servings you are consuming 2 grams of fat so it’s not fat free after all.


  7. Thank you, Elana. I agree with your post 100%. I think there is often too much emphasis on the right or wrong way to eat fruits and vegetables when the truth is that many of us don’t eat enough in any form. As Caitlin emphasized, frozen fruits and veggies may be more realistic and affordable for many busy families. Fresh produce is great, but frozen produce is still a very healthy option when there isn’t the availability or time to prepare fresh food.


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