Sometimes it can be so tempting to bypass the produce section of the grocery store and grab fruit and veggies in the frozen foods aisle instead. After all, whipping up a healthy stir fry or throwing together a tasty smoothie is just so much easier when you buy 'em that way. But opting for frozen fruit and veggies also feels kind of wrong, doesn't it? Like you're cheating — or maybe even cheating yourself out of all the health benefits that come with fresh produce.
Well don't begrudgingly head back to the produce section just yet: According to new research set to be published in the June 2017 issue of Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. In fact, some frozen produce might retain even more nutrients than the fresh stuff.
University of Georgia researchers spent two years analyzing the nutritional value (aka the vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate levels) of broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, green peas, spinach, blueberries, and strawberries. Each type of produce was stored in one of three conditions before testing: fresh, refrigerated for five days, or frozen.
Their findings: In most cases, fresh, refrigerated, and frozen produce were nutritionally equivalent. But, in some cases, the researchers found that frozen fruits might have even greater nutrient levels than the fresh or temporarily refrigerated stuff — especially when it comes to vitamin A.
It's important to note that this study was sponsored in part by the Frozen Food Foundation, a group that obviously has a bias. But the findings are supported by previous research, and they do make sense when you think about it: The process of freezing produce is called "fresh frozen," meaning the fruits and veggies are frozen immediately following harvest (aka when they're at their peak ripeness), while "fresh" fruit and veggies have to be packed up and transported to your local grocery store before you get your hands on 'em, Mic reports.
That said, figuring out where you stand in the frozen vs. fresh produce debate isn't as important as just eating your fruits and veggies in the first place — no matter what form they come in.
But there's no reason to feel guilty for filling up your grocery cart with frozen produce on those days when you're just not feeling the necessary prep work that comes with the fresh stuff. Plus, you'll often find your favorite fruits and veggies in the frozen foods aisle year-round, even when they're out of season. And isn't that something worth celebrating?