By Jena Mays
If you are one of those people who refrain from stopping by the frozen foods section while grocery shopping, you are not alone. Many people believe that you will only find preservative-rich processed foods in the frozen foods section, including frozen fresh produce. However, freezing is a method of food preservation that safely retains nutritional value and increases the shelf-life of perishable fresh foods.
Frozen produce is a convenient, affordable, sustainable, and nutritionally-rich alternative to fresh foods. In the case of fresh fruits and vegetables, the ones bought from the grocery store have compromised nutritional value for several reasons.
The fresh produce available at the grocery store is usually plucked when it has not yet fully ripened. It is expected that this produce will continue to ripen during transportation to its destination warehouses.
Due to this early picking, such produce does not get enough time to completely develop its potential maximum quantities of natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Then, this produce is stored in atmosphere-controlled chillers during transit and is often chemically treated to avoid spoilage before reaching the grocery store.
On the other hand, frozen produce follows a different path. Vegetables and fruits are usually plucked when they are ripe and frozen immediately to retain all of their nutritional content. Produce arrives in almost the exact same state in the grocery store, and you get to enjoy the produce as if it were just harvested only hours earlier.
According to a study conducted to compare the key nutritional values of fresh and frozen produce, refrigeration of fresh fruits and veggies results in the loss of vitamins over time. Also, the study concluded, frozen produce retained more nutrition than its fresh counterpart in some cases.
If you can source fresh foods from a local farm or grow it yourself, you should. However, a good strategy would be to keep a mix of both fresh and frozen foods in your refrigerator. This will provide you with a constant supply of your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables all year long.
Freezing helps lock in the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables. However, be careful to use cooking methods that complement this advantage so that these nutrients are not lost during the cooking process. Boiling, for example, drains out water-soluble vitamins in foods, severely compromising their nutritional value.
You can easily find frozen fruits and vegetables without any added salt, sugar, or preservatives. Usually, no preservatives are added to these types of frozen foods because freezing is a method of food preservation itself.
The best thing about frozen food options is that, unlike with fresh foods, you are not required to wash, peel, dice, or chop them up. This has already been done for you. Hence, you can prepare hassle-free meals in less time using frozen foods.
Another great reason to opt for frozen produce is that you get lots of vitamin C. Frozen foods typically retain more nutrition than other food options, and that includes vitamin C, according to studies. For instance, studies have found that frozen green peas may retain more vitamin C compared to fresh green peas that have been stored in a refrigerator over a few days.
Frozen vegetables go through a process of blanching before they are frozen. Blanching involves keeping the vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes in order to eliminate harmful bacteria and preserve color, flavor, and texture. This makes steaming these vegetables a great way to cook them, as it limits the loss of nutrition and is also super fast.
Frozen vegetables are mostly cooked for two to ten minutes. You can also microwave them by adding a few tablespoons of water. The time required for microwaving depends on the tenderness of the vegetables you’ve chosen. If you want your veggies to be crunchy, microwave for a shorter duration, then immerse them in icy water and drain them out before adding them to your favorite meal.
It is important to follow the instructions given on the packet of your frozen veggies to make sure that you are using the right method of cooking. This includes the recommended cooking time. Sauteing is a quick and easy way of preparing crispy and crunchy vegetables without defrosting. Add a few teaspoons of olive oil and your favorite spices and herbs to give your veggies a delicious flavor.
Roasting is another great way of cooking your vegetables. Frozen veggies roast quicker than fresh ones because of the thorough pre-freeze preparation they have undergone. Roast them for 20 to 25 minutes and season with herbs and spices to make them more tempting.
Another option is to grill your frozen veggies. Be careful while using a grilling basket, as softer veggies can fall through within minutes. The vegetables will grill nicely in about five to ten minutes, depending upon their type.
Frozen vegetables can be easily added to soups and stews directly and will cook well in only 20 to 30 minutes. This is a quick way to give your soups a nutritional kick!
Here is a 9-minute Youtube video sharing nine great recipes you can try at home with frozen foods.
The food industry has come a long way in catering to the different requirements and health concerns of consumers, employing effective and innovative methods of food preservation. Freezing is one of the best methods to preserve fresh foods without adding harmful preservatives. Frozen foods are a nutritious, accessible, and cost-effective alternative to fresh produce and can simplify your life.
You should use frozen vegetables and fruits when they are out of season and fresh seasonal fruits and veggies, provided they are fresh off the farm. Additionally, choose ways of cooking your meals that minimize the loss of nutrition. A good mix of frozen and fresh foods will ensure you get to enjoy your favorite foods all year long. So, don’t forget to add the frozen variety to your grocery list next time!