Better Choices: Frozen vs. Canned Vegetables and Fruit

In an ideal world, all of our fruits and vegetables would be fresh. In our fast-paced society, however, that is not always possible. For many people, canned foods are a go-to, and while they are not inherently bad, the majority of brands have added ingredients that are best avoided. For this reason, frozen is a great alternative. 

Risks of Canned Foods 

While certain canned foods can be safe and just as nutrient-dense as frozen, many options are not.  

Added Preservatives, Salt and Sugar 

The most relevant concern with canned foods is the likelihood that they contain added ingredients for both taste and preservation. These often include salt, sugar and artificial preservatives. Sugar especially is linked with many chronic diseases, obesity topping the list. Frozen produce, on the other hand, usually do not contain extra ingredients aside from the produce itself.  

Bacterial Contamination 

While this is not common, it can happen that canned foods are contaminated with the deadly bacteria called Clostridium botulinumFoods contaminated with this bacteria can cause botulism, which is a potentially fatal condition if left untreated. Again, this is very rare, but be sure to avoid any canned foods that are dented, bulging or damaged in any way. Sticking to frozen or fresh foods eliminates this concern. 

BPA-Lined Cans 

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical that has been given a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason. It is commonly used in cans and other types of food packaging. In fact, unless a can specifically states that it is BPA-free, it probably contains it. Some studies show that BPA can migrate from the can into the food. Research suggests that BPA consumption by humans can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, sexual dysfunction and type 2 diabetes. 

Why Frozen is Better 

While some nutrients are lost during the process of freezing vegetables, many remain, and usually frozen produce is not treated with chemicals.  Frozen vegetables and fruits are picked at peak ripeness (which is also when their nutrient content is highest); vegetables are washed, blanched, cut, and frozen. Frozen fruit is often treated with ascorbic acid or sugar, instead of blanching, to prevent discoloration and spoilage.  

Studies do show that the nutrient content of frozen foods starts to break down after about a year, so using the “freshest” frozen foods possible is optimal. Research is also mixed, some claiming that frozen foods lose a great deal of their nutrient value due to blanching, and other studies showing that very minimal nutrient value is lost. Antioxidants are perhaps most affected by the blanching process, but once the produce is frozen, its nutrient content will stay intact. And remember that fruit does not undergo blanching; so as long as it does not have added sugars, it is still highly nutritious. 

While fresh is usually best, fresh produce also loses a lot of its nutritional value during the process of harvesting, transporting, storing, etc (another reason to buy local). Since frozen fruits and veggies are frozen right after their peak ripeness, some research points out they might be even more nutrient-dense than fresh produce which has been transported for multiple days.  

Studies comparing certain fresh and frozen vegetables in a grocery store found their nutrient content to be very similar. 

Next time you’re pressed for time, and looking for a quick and healthy way to feed your family (or just yourself), try this simple salmon recipe. 

Oven-Baked Salmon and Veggies Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • Fresh or frozen salmon filets (about 4 oz per person) 
  • Several bags of frozen mixed vegetables (organic, if possible) 
  • 1 Tbsp coconut or extra virgin olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Other seasonings you like (turmeric, garlic, rosemary, etc) 

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. In a greased baking pan, place your salmon filets and veggies. Top with oil, seasonings, salt and pepper. 
  3. Place in the oven and bake until salmon is done, anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. 
  4. Enjoy!