A question or comment that I have heard frequently about vegetables is “Should I eat fresh? Frozen? Or canned?” “I hear that frozen are better for you.” I have had several people ask about this lately so I thought maybe I should look for some research – rather than just go with my gut opinion. This is what I found.
Fresh vegetables will have higher nutrient levels if they are eaten shortly after picking, but those that have been in transit and storage for up to a couple weeks will lose from 10 – 50% of certain nutrients. This certainly depends on the quality of storage – but there will be some loss. On the positive side – this spring, summer, and fall we will have the opportunity to eat vegetables with high amounts of nutrients if we grow our own or purchase local grown at the Farmer’s Market
Canned vegetables are typically processed very quickly after picking which can result in high quality vegetables with little nutrient loss. The problem with canned is that they often have added salt or sugar, which most of us can do without. Our best choice is to purchase those without added sodium (or sugar for corn) or to rinse them to remove some of the added sodium. If you have home canned vegetables, keep them in a cool, dry place and serve within 12 months. Note – home canned vegetables can be safely processed without added salt. If you are planning to do preserving this summer – check out our Ohio State University Extension Office websites – we have links to the latest food preservation information, often offer classes, and test pressure canners for accuracy.
Vegetables that are picked and frozen quickly retain most of their original nutrients, but they need proper storage to maintain this quality. Keep them in your freezer and serve them within a month or two. For optimum freezer storage it should be zero degrees Fahrenheit and not over packed. Air in the freezer needs to circulate and food should be away from the back vent of the freezer.
One of the major ways that vegetables lose their nutrients is during cooking. For optimum nutrients, use shorter cooking times at lower temperatures. If possible, microwave or steam veggies. Another great way to have vegetables in stir-fried – which usually is done with a short cooking time.
Columbia University, Health Services, http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, http://postharvest.ucdavis.edu/datastorefiles/234-779.pdf
Ohio State University Extension, Ohioline HYG Factsheet #5402-94-R10, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5402.pdf
Author: Lisa Barlage, Family & Consumer Science Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.