When it comes to vegetables, we often hear that fresher is better. It'd be nice to have fresh vegetables all the time but sometimes it just isn't possible, especially as students. Fresh vegetables can cost more than canned or frozen vegetables and expire much quicker. So when comparing frozen vs canned vegetables, which is better? To answer this question, we need to break down the pros and cons of each.
Frozen vegetables tend to be flash frozen right when they are harvested, giving them a few advantages over fresh vegetables. Being frozen at their peak means that they remain in the state where the nutrient content is the highest. Fresh vegetables often need to be shipped in from different locations (often from far away) after harvest, which can compromise the vitamin and mineral content of the veggies. The dietary fiber content of frozen vegetables also remains similar to fresh vegetables, very little of it is lost during the freezing process.
Frozen vegetables can also be a more affordable option compared to fresh. It also allows the consumption of a variety of different foods all year round, even when they aren't in season.
While the nutrient content of frozen vegetables remains mainly intact, some water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C or Vitamin B can leach out in the blanching process. Frozen vegetables are usually blanched before they're frozen to kill bacteria and denature enzymes that may cause the food to go bad.
Another way in which frozen vegetables are prevented from expiring may include the use of preservatives. These preservatives may include sodium or an artificial preservative. Having an excessive amount of sodium or preservatives in your diet can be harmful to your health. Avoid extra sodium and preservatives by reading the ingredients list on your frozen veggies.
The biggest advantages of canned vegetables are the convenience, price, and long shelf life that they have. Canned vegetables can remain in your pantry for over a year, allowing you to stock up when they go on sale and use them whenever you want. Similar to frozen vegetables, canned vegetables are also harvested and preserved at their peak, allowing for optimal nutrition. This means having canned over fresh vegetables doesn't have to mean sacrificing any nutrients.
Some phytochemicals in vegetables are even enhanced by the canning process, which means you get more of them than you would have with fresh vegetables. This includes beta-carotene, which can be found in pumpkin and carrots, as well as lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes. These vegetables are ones we would be better off purchasing canned over frozen.
Canned vegetables don't always taste as good as their fresh counterparts, which can deter some people from purchasing them. Canned vegetables can also contain high amounts of sodium and sugar in order to help keep them preserved.
#SpoonTip: Choose canned vegetables labeled as low-sodium or no salt added. This will let you control how much salt is added to your meals.
A risk that comes with canned products is that they can become contaminated with botulism. Botulism is caused by the botulinum toxin and is a very serious illness that can lead to paralysis. Commercially canned food, however, goes through a "botulinum cook" at high temperatures, so obtaining botulism from these cans is rare. The risk increases with improperly home-canned food. Some precautions that can be taken with commercially canned food include avoiding dented, bulging, rusting cans or those that have a bad odor.
Based on the advantages and disadvantages of frozen vs canned vegetables, frozen vegetables seem like the better choice. They're most similar to fresh vegetables in terms of taste and texture, and there are fewer cons associated with them. Just make sure you purchase vegetables that doesn't add any sodium or preservatives.
#SpoonTip: Don't limit yourself to boiling frozen vegetables. You can roast frozen veggies as well, just like you would fresh vegetables.
The next time you're at the grocery store trying to decide between frozen vs canned vegetables, keep these points in mind and you'll be able to make the correct decision for your needs.