Are frozen fruit and vegetables as healthy as fresh? How are they processed, and how much counts towards your five-a-day? A nutritionist explains.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are fantastic to have on hand for all kinds of recipes – from smoothies and shakes to risottos, soups and stews. We asked nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to explain how frozen produce compares nutritionally to fresh, and how to buy the healthiest options.
Are frozen fruit and vegetables as healthy as fresh produce?
Frozen fruit and vegetables are almost like-for-like in terms of nutritional content when compared to fresh.
Frozen peas, for example, have around 70 calories per 100g compared to 79 calories of fresh peas. Frozen peas have 5.5g of protein, 1g fat, 11g carbohydrates and 5.5 g fibre per 100g compared to fresh peas which contain almost 7g protein, 1.5g fat, 10g carbohydrates and 5.6g fibre.
Frozen produce also have similar levels of vitamins and minerals as fresh – it may be slightly lower in some cases, but the differences are minimal. On the one hand, frozen peas contain 12mg of vitamin C per 100g compared to fresh peas which contain 16mg, but on the other, frozen peas have more calcium at 37mg compared to fresh peas which contain 19mg per 100g.
Salt and sugar levels can naturally be a little higher in frozen fruit and vegetables. Frozen peas have 4g of sodium per 100g compared to 1g in fresh peas per 100g. However the differences are likely to be small, and frozen produce is still a healthy addition to a balanced diet.
How are frozen fruit and vegetables processed?
Commercially, frozen fruit and vegetables are fast-frozen within a few hours of picking. They are prepared so that they are ready for consumption (for example, they may be peeled or chopped). Often, they are packaged before being subjected to flash-freezing at low temperatures so that the fruit or vegetables water content crystallises instantly, stopping it from going soggy when thawed. This also prevents any damage to the structure of the fruit or vegetable and helps preserve its nutrient status.
How to choose the healthiest frozen fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables don’t require any preservatives or added ingredients to be frozen, so always check the labels to ensure they are 100 per cent fruit or vegetable with no added extras. Avoid brands which add extra sugar, salt, flavourings or preservatives.
How much frozen fruit or vegetables count as one of your 5-a-day?
Just like fresh or tinned fruit and vegetables, 80g counts as one of your five-a-day.
Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Healthy recipes using frozen fruit and vegetables
This page was published on 30 April 2020.
All macronutrient and micronutrient analysis: McCance Widdowson’s Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset 2019.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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