Letter from an Independent Living Reader
Hi Lee: You recently extolled the benefits of stocking up on frozen foods. What about the diminished nutritional value of frozen foods compared to fresh?
Hi Linda: Thanks for asking, it’s a great question and the answer is kind of counterintuitive. Believe it or not, frozen foods generally retain more nutritional value than supermarket fresh fruit and vegetables, and come with fewer chemical additives than canned foods. That’s why I suggest buying an extra freezer for longer-term storage of some emergency foods.
I’m not talking about frozen snack products like Eggo waffles that have little nutritional value to begin with. I’m talking about frozen fruits and vegetables.
Surprisingly, many frozen fruits and vegetables retain more nutrients than the “fresh” produce at your grocery store. Fruits and vegetables can lose nutrients and acquire chemical contaminants in the process of being handled and transported in different temperature environments before finally being displayed inside a grocery store. If it’s a long trip, with lots of stops at depots and wholesale markets, the nutrients diminish quickly. In addition, produce can pick up germs and other contaminants in the air while on display.
Fruits and veggies that are frozen and sealed get their nutrients locked in within hours, sometimes minutes, of being picked. Frozen crops are not subjected to the handling/display treatment that fresh produce endures.
Yes, over time, freezer burn can erode the quality of frozen foods. But double sealing them in foil wrap and freezer bags, or vacuum sealing them in airtight containers can enable most frozen foods to keep for months.
If you grow some of your own fruits and vegetables or obtain them from a local farmer’s market, great. The less distance they have to travel to get to you, generally the fresher they’ll be. Freezing is a great option for your own veggies and fruit, as is home-canning.
Another great advantage of frozen over fresh is that the food chain from field to table is fairly direct. There is no time for the crop to perish in storage, or wilt on display. Which means frozen fruits and veggies are incredibly cheap when compared to fresh crops that may have traveled across the country — or in the case of some exotics, half-way across the world.
Of course, you should still have some canned, dried and freeze-dried foods in your pantry as emergency reserves. If you lose power and/or the ability to drive to a well-stocked grocery store for an extended period, you’ll be able to fall back on what’s in your pantry.