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Fresh vs. frozen – does it matter?

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Current cooking trends extol the virtues of fresh, organic ingredients over their frozen and canned counterparts. But do fresh veggies really have the upper hand in healthy eating?

Not as much as one might think. Depending on how they were frozen and preserved, frozen vegetables can retain as much nutrients as fresh ones, and keep for far longer.

Photo by: DrMaguire
Frozen vegetables can contain about as much nutrients as their fresh counterparts while lasting longer in storage.

The packaging should detail the process by which the vegetables were prepared. The first step in freezing vegetables involves steaming or blanching. While the former method preserves water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B and C, the process of blanching does cause the nutrients to degrade. This first step however, kills bacteria and slows degradation of the produce, while keeping intact the rest of the vitamins and minerals like carotenoids, thiamin and riboflavin.

The subsequent step, flash-freezing, locks the vegetables in a relatively flavourful and nutrient-rich state, and it can remain so for a long time.

On the flipside, fresh produce is typically picked before they’re ripe for shipping to supermarket aisles, where the ripening process continues. As a result, these vegetables will not have the same amount of nutrients as compared to those allowed to ripen on the vine. The shipping process may also cause some nutrients to degrade as they’re exposed to heat and light during transportation.

So don’t fret when faced with a limited budget or time to prepare fresh vegetables for your family – they’re likely to get about the same amount of nutrition from the more affordable and convenient frozen options from the supermarket.

Photo by dave_earl
Blanching vegetables in a microwave preserves more nutrients than other cooking methods while killing bacteria and slowing degradation of the produce.

For those who still prefer to have organically grown vegetables, but may not have time to head to the shops frequently to restock, freezing vegetables at home is an option with the right equipment. Blanching vegetables before storage can be made quick and easy with a microwave like the Electrolux EMS2840,which has an auto cooking programme that can cook up to 750g of vegetables at once.  As blanching in a microwave uses very little water, doing so can even help preserve the B and C vitamins better than blanching on the hob.

Successfully freezing and preserving the food’s nutritional value depends on how quickly you can reduce the temperature, as fast freezing halts bacterial growth instantly and produces micro ice crystals, which causes less damage to the food’s cell structure.

Refrigerators like the Electrolux ESE5688SA has a fast freeze function which lowers the temperature of the freezer even further.  This  ensures food is frozen as quickly as possible. Do turn the fast freeze on about three hours before the vegetables are to be stored. For optimal freezing, don’t try to freeze more than 10% of the freezer’s capacity at a time. When the food is frozen, feel free to turn the freezer’s temperature back up to normal.

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