A trip to the produce aisle at the grocery store can be tricky. All of the awe-inspiring colors and textures arouse endless possibilities for the food lover and health-conscious. Who could argue against fresh fruits and vegetables that not only taste good but are nutritious as well? The problem is that produce sold at grocery stores are not always fresh. So, what is the best option to maximize the health benefits of good eating?
Try the frozen food aisle. Believe it or not, some varieties of frozen fruits and vegetables offer higher intake of critical nutrients than their “fresh” counterparts. Why? Because, in most cases, the groceries sold as fresh were picked and harvested before they were fully matured and artificially ripened on a truck while in transport to the store.
In contrast, frozen produce is harvested at their peak and frozen immediately allowing all the good stuff to remain locked in. Fruits and vegetables begin to loose nutrients as soon as they are harvested. A study done by Leatherford Food Research found that two out of three times frozen varieties contained higher levels of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, polyphenols and anthocyonins as well as vitamin C in some foods.
Some packaged, frozen produce goes through a process known as blanching where the foods are soaked in hot water to kill bacteria and retain color. Some nutrients may be lost in the process. Blanching does not occur in every case. Furthermore, this is all the processing frozen produce goes through. There are more than enough options of frozen varieties that contain no additives such as sodium. It is important to read the label to make sure nothing has been added. Frozen produce will hold nutrients for up to a year.
To maximize health benefits, choose a variety of fresh and frozen produce. At the supermarket, it is best to buy fresh produce that is in season. Produce that is not in season has been preserved with dangerous chemicals. That waxy film on some fruits and vegetables is shellac, a chemical used in nail polish and paint thinner. Click here to learn more about the best foods to buy frozen and here to learn more about preparing them.
If the supermarket offers local varieties, that is the best option for fresh produce. Otherwise, consider a farmer’s market or CSA. Both options sell clean, fresh, organic foods.
The World Hunger Relief Farm sells their locally grown produce at the Downtown Waco Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and on their Veggie Van a St. Jude’s on Tuesdays. They also operate a CSA.