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Can fruits and veggies be better for you if they’re canned or frozen?

How to eat better and get power, even when fresh produce isn’t in season

By Gina Houmann, MPH, RDN, LD
January 3, 2018

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Winter. ‘Tis the season where locally grown fresh fruits and veggies are harder to come by. And when you do find fresh produce, it is usually more expensive and has traveled a long way to get to your grocery store.

So what’s the scoop on canned or frozen options? Will you get the same vitamins from them? Can you benefit just as much from eating canned or frozen as from eating fresh?

Most of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, so choosing vegetables and fruits in any form is better than none.

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit usually have been picked at peak ripeness – when they’re the most packed with vitamin and nutrient power.

Flash-freezing does a pretty good job of locking in those vitamins, natural flavor and sweetness. And frozen produce will keep for a long time. However, the vitamins will slowly break down over time. The fruits and vegetables are still good to eat when this happens, but won’t have quite the same vitamin and nutrient power as they do right after purchasing.

The process used to can fruits and vegetables can also cause some types of vitamins to break down. But after canning happens, the vitamins in fruits and veggies won’t break down any further until the can is opened – so you’ll still benefit from eating them.

How you cook the fruits and vegetables can make a difference in the amount of vitamins and nutrients, too. That’s true regardless of if you use fresh, frozen or canned veggies and fruit. Boiling fruits and veggies causes some of the vitamins to leak out of the produce and into the water. So steam or microwave instead to keep them from losing these water-soluble vitamins. You can even keep fruit frozen and top it with milk or yogurt to make a yummy morning snack. Try our PowerUp Parfait for a tasty start to your day.

Frozen veggies and fruit may actually be even more power-packed than what you can find fresh in the winter.

The fresh produce at the grocery store during winter may have been picked too soon so that it never reached its peak nutrition. And the vitamins in produce can be lost over time. That means that if the fruits and veggies were shipped a long distance to get to the store, chances are they don’t have the same vitamin- and nutrient-packed power that they would have if they were grown nearby.

Tips picking frozen and canned fruits and veggies:

  • Go for choices without added sauces, as they can add extra fat and salt.
  • Look for low-sodium canned veggies, or drain and rinse the veggies before heating.
  • Choose fruits canned in 100% juice or with no added sugar.
  • Check the labels on frozen fruits and choose the unsweetened options.

Power up with frozen veggies

About Gina Houmann, MPH, RDN, LD

Gina Houmann is a Program Manager for several organization-wide nutrition programs at HealthPartners Institute. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Gina enjoys partnering with clinicians across HealthPartners and Park Nicollet to provide nutrition programs and resources to better serve patients. Previously, she provided nutrition counseling and education for patients at Melrose Center. In her free time, Gina enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, 5-year-old son and 2-year-old twin daughters.

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