Question: I always purchase fresh produce for my family, but now I’m hearing that canned or frozen may actually be healthier! Is that true?
The short answer: Yes, they can be.
The explanation: The nutrient content of fruits and vegetables is greatest if picked when ripe and consumed very soon thereafter. However, it is difficult to know when “fresh” produce from the grocer or farm market was actually harvested, and degradation can occur with time – as the produce is washed, graded, packaged, shipped, stored and placed on grocery shelves or in bins before it is available to consumers.
On the other hand, canned and frozen vegetables are, in most cases, picked at the height of ripeness and processed within hours of harvest, so there is minimal loss of nutrients. The freezing or canning process then preserves the nutrients, extends shelf life, and enables year-round access to “fresh-picked” produce, and even increases food safety through the reduction of pathogens, dirt, and filth.
The caveat for canned and frozen vegetables is that they may have added ingredients that reduce the nutritional value or add calories, such as canned produce with added sodium for preservation, frozen vegetables in sauce or with added sugars, and fruits in syrup.
In summary, the fresher the produce when eaten, canned, or frozen, the healthier the vegetable or fruit itself will be.