Top 5 health benefits of frozen fruit and vegetables
Frozen fruit and vegetables are convenient additions to smoothies and shakes as well as risottos, soups and stews. We asked Registered Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to explain how frozen produce compares nutritionally to fresh.
What are frozen fruit and vegetables?
Commercially frozen fruit and vegetables are flash-frozen within a few hours of picking. They are prepared and ready for consumption – being peeled or chopped and blanched to prevent browning.
Often, they are packaged before being flash-frozen at low temperatures so the water content crystallises instantly, stopping the produce from going soggy when thawed. This also minimises, but doesn’t eliminate, damage to the structure of the fruit or vegetable and helps preserve nutrients.
Nutritional benefits of frozen produce
Typically, frozen produce retains most of its nutrients, although there may be small variations in nutrient value.
An 80g serving of frozen peas (boiled):
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• 56kcal / 239KJ
• 4.4g protein
• 0.6g fat
• 9g carbs
• 4.7g sugars
• 4.4g fibre
• 142mg Potassium
• 10mg vitamin C
Just like fresh or canned fruit and vegetables, 80g counts as one of your five-a-day. Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Top 5 health benefits of frozen fruit and vegetables
1. Are as nutritious as fresh
Frozen fruit and vegetables are almost like-for-like in terms of nutritional value when compared with fresh. There can be slight variations, but the differences are usually negligible – for example, cooked-from-frozen peas contain 12mg of vitamin C per 100g, compared to fresh peas which contain 16mg. However, frozen peas have more calcium at 37mg, compared to fresh peas which contain 19mg per 100g. Vegetables are often blanched prior to freezing to prevent browning, this process also retains phyto-nutrients, including carotenoids and flavonoids.
Salt and sugar levels may be a little higher in frozen fruit and vegetables. For example, frozen peas have 5.9g sugar per 100g compared to 1.2g in fresh peas per 100g.
2. Are a healthy way to preserve fresh produce
Freezing is a widely used long-term method of preservation that retains many of the attributes associated with freshness, with many considering it a better method of preservation than say canning or drying.
Fruit and vegetables don’t require any preservatives or added ingredients when frozen, making freezing a healthy way of extending the life of fresh produce. However, it’s worth checking labels of commercially frozen produce to ensure they have no added sugar, salt or other flavourings.
3. Are a valuable way to access nutrients out of season
Freezing fresh produce, when in season, is a valuable way to access nutrients like vitamin C during the winter months. Studies suggest people who include frozen produce in their diets tend to eat more fruit and vegetables overall.
4. Are a healthy and convenient fast food
Famed for their convenience, frozen fruit and vegetables are typically easier to prepare, with minimal wastage. They don’t require washing, peeling or chopping and are fast to cook, making them a healthy and convenient option.
5. Makes fruit and vegetables accessible to more people
Frozen produce is typically cheaper than its fresh equivalent, especially out of season. There is minimal wastage and you can use the exact amount you need – all of which makes frozen produce more cost effective and accessible to more people.
Are frozen fruit and vegetables safe for everyone?
Fruit and vegetables are generally recognised as safe for the majority of people, but some people may experience allergies to certain produce, regardless of whether they are fresh or frozen.
It is not necessary to defrost frozen produce before cooking, but be sure to cook to an internal temperature of about 135C before serving. This is because although fresh produce may be blanched before freezing it may still harbour bacteria, such as Listeria.
Be aware that if you’re adding frozen vegetables to a composite dish like a stew or tagine, their addition will lower the temperature of the dish which will, as a result, lengthen the overall cooking time needed.
Read more about food allergies at NHS allergy.
This article was reviewed on 25 February 2022 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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 Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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