THE LOWDOWN ON VEGETABLES
By Nutrition Team
Monday, March 9, 2009.
Ever felt guilty about stocking up on frozen vegetables, rather than buying the fresh alternatives? Well don’t! It’s a common misconception that ‘fresh is best’. After reading this, you might think differently…
It is widely recognised that fruit and vegetables play an important role in the body’s defence against heart disease and some cancers. They are a good source of fibre, minerals and vitamins, in particular antioxidants such as lycopene, beta-carotene (a form of Vitamin A) and Vitamin C. It is thought that the combined effect of these nutrients, along with fibre and water, provide fruit and vegetables with the ability to help promote long-term health and well-being. The recommended intake to facilitate this is a minimum of five portions per day.
The belief that frozen vegetables are less nutritious than fresh vegetables is not always true. As a result of modern harvesting and freezing techniques, frozen vegetables have been shown to have comparable, if not better, nutritional content over some fresh vegetables.
Freezing immediately after harvest acts to trap the nutrients and thus preserve the nutrient content of the vegetables while they are at their highest levels.
On the other hand, fresh vegetables must be stored and then transported to a supermarket. The length of time it takes fresh produce to reach the supermarket shelves has a profound effect on their nutrient content at the time of purchase. Most nutrients are quite resilient to light and changes in temperature.
However, it has been reported that within 7 days of harvest, the concentration of some vitamins has decreased by 50%, depending on storage techniques. Higher levels of Vitamin C have been found in cooked vegetables that were frozen immediately after harvest, compared to fresh vegetables that had been transported, stored and then cooked. Therefore, by reducing the time between harvesting and cooking Vitamin C levels are maximised.
The packaging of frozen vegetables also provides protection for the beta-carotene and other light-sensitive nutrients from the damage caused by exposure to light.