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Frozen vs. Canned Vegetables – Which is better?

8 min read

Health and hygiene had briefly lost its importance during the last few centuries but the significance of these aspects is coming back. Consumers have spent years being unconcerned about the effect of diet on their wellbeing. Today, however, problems like obesity, cardiac ailments and a wide range of others are plaguing societies, especially in the developed world. A debate about frozen vs canned vegetables has been in the midst of these issues.

The United States is one of the countries which have the highest rates of obesity. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 2015-2016 31.8% of the population was overweight. Another 39.8% of adults above 20 were obese. Of these almost 8% had severe obesity. Recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System obesity rates data as of September 2019 revealed that Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest obesity rates at 39.5% and Colorado the lowest at 23%.

Fruits and vegetables have always been a crucial part of the human diet. The way vegetables, in particular, are grown, harvested, transported and consumed has changed considerably with the advent of technology. This is one of the reasons why the frozen vs canned vegetables debate has become so mainstream. What was once considered a convenience is now being viewed as a health hazard.

In this article, we will look at the benefits and drawbacks of frozen, canned and fresh vegetables. Then, we will compare them alongside one another and draw a conclusion which would help you pick the best option for keeping health in mind. These facts and comparisons are important because dietary choices impact our lives to a great extent. 

Frozen Vegetables

Freezing has been the preferred method of preserving vegetables for hundreds of years. It was our very early ancestors who figured out that keeping fresh produce at freezing temperatures delayed the decay process allowing them to stay edible for longer. The first freezer type appliance was developed somewhere in the 1970s. Today, almost every household has some form of a refrigeration unit to preserve various food items.

Our widely held belief that freezing keeps food fresh and consumable for longer is being challenged by recent studies. There are benefits of the process but at the same time, there are drawbacks which concern the nutritional requirements of the vegetables. Here are some pros and cons of freezing food.  

         Pros

–          It is a fairly quick method. It takes just a few minutes for vegetables to be frozen. If there are large quantities it may take a few hours and that’s it.

–          Blanching before freezing stops enzyme activity which lead to rotting. This allows frozen vegetables to stay fit for consumption across longer periods of time.

–          Prepared meals containing vegetables can also be preserved through the same method.

         Cons

–          Some of the nutritional elements like Vitamin B and C are lost in the freezing process. Antioxidants which help proper cell functioning are also lost to some extent in frozen foods,

–          The biggest drawback of freezing is that the taste and texture of vegetables is lost. Water is soaked inside it which is difficult to defrost thus becoming a hassle. This process is known as freezer burn and it is evident in gray or brown edges on meat and lost color in vegetables etc.

–          Freezer storage is recommended for a year at max. The rate is even lower for vegetables but relatively higher for meat.

–          Power outages can mean disaster for frozen items because as they begin to defrost, there is a high probability of them going bad faster than usual.

Canned Vegetables

After freezing, humans discovered another method of preserving food which was putting them in airtight cans. This packaging requires the addition of artificial preservatives to prolong the shelf life of the food. Right off the bat then, canned vegetables feel at a loss but there are some aspects in which they offer benefits.

According to some statistics, 84% of Americans prepare meals using canned vegetables or other foods available in metal packaging. This happens at least twice a month and the frequency with which canned foods are consumed is similar in other first world countries too. Here are a few merits and demerits of canned vegetables or foods in general:

         Pros

–          Canned food is cheap.

–          It is convenient to carry it anywhere and store for longer periods of time. People on long expeditions even to remote places carry canned food with them.

–          In some cases, fresh produce stored for a few days has lost its nutrition but canned foods hold more of the same content for longer. In specific instances, this may not hold true but for some cases it is true.

         Cons

–          Once again taste is a factor where frozen or canned food can’t beat fresh produce. It is a widely known and accepted fact that it is impossible to achieve the same flavor as fresh vegetables from any other form.

–          Certain chemicals and preservatives are added to canned foods to increase shelf life. In some instances, salt and sugar is added to enhance any loss of natural flavor that may have occurred in the process of packaging.

–          Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in aluminium and tin cans. Many recently concluded studies have shown that BPA is toxic even in low doses and significant traces of it have been found in canned products. The chemical can cause cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, breast cancer and other neurological disorders.

–          Not all vegetables are available in canned form which is another substantial drawback of these preserved foods.

Fresh Vegetables

There is no denying the fact that fresh vegetables have absolutely no alternative. The complete package that fresh foods offer is not possible to obtain from any other source. Top chefs across the globe go to enormous lengths in order to procure the freshest produce for their restaurants. It ensures that they prepare high-quality meals for the customers who visit these eateries. This is the reason their recipes feel so exciting and delicious.

         Pros

–          First and foremost is the flavor. If you want to get the best out of a meal, it has to be made with fresh vegetables.

–          They are loaded with nutrition. They are contributors to easing a lot of problems that Americans in general face including obesity and food poisoning. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines state that residents of the United States should consume at least 2.5 cups of vegetables a day,

–          Vegetables are also great for your weight loss regimen. They are low on calories and some are even good at dissolving belly fat.

–          Price is a factor that can be both an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the vegetable and the season in which you want to buy it.

         Cons

–          It is hard to think of anything that may be wrong with fresh vegetables but there is. Firstly, they can’t be stored for any more than a few days.

–          Modern growing techniques also put human health at risk because the use of fertilizers which contain insecticides can get into the human body and make us sick too.

Comparison of Frozen Vegetables to Canned Vegetables

Frozen vs canned vegetables is a question that is one a lot of people’s minds and the answer can be found by comparing their respective pros and cons. Frozen vegetables have no preservatives but they will soon lose their flavor as well as texture. Canned vegetables don’t come in many varieties whereas you can buy and freeze almost any vegetable you want. Nutritional value is still under debate in various academic and scientific circles. Conclusive evidence has not yet been found to give a convincing lead to either.

Frozen vegetables available in supermarkets are blanched before being flash-frozen and manufacturers debate that this preserves nutritional value.  This claim is still under debate with no strong evidence to support either side of the story.

How Frozen and Canned Vegetables Compare to Fresh Vegetables? 

Once again this is a subjective question that doesn’t have a definitive yes or no answer. One thing is for sure that right off the farm, there is absolutely no alternative to fresh vegetables. They have the nutrients, the flavor and the texture to create the perfect meal every time. No matter how well we get at preserving foods, there won’t be a way to substitute fresh produce ever.

Which One Should You Buy?  

It depends on a number of factors like how long you wish to store the vegetables before cooking, how often can you go out to get fresh supplies and how health conscious you are. If you are going to cook right away, then fresh vegetables are the first choice. Consumers can pick between canned and frozen vegetables at will, but the latter holds a bit of an edge over the former due to the absence of both preserving chemicals and the toxic BPA that comes from the aluminium tins.

Conclusion

The debate of frozen vs canned vegetables is ongoing with research studies being conducted to empirically justify one being better than the other. For now, the available advantages and disadvantages fulfill the purpose appropriately. Fresh produce always takes precedence if you are preparing a meal at the present time, next is frozen and then canned food but at the end of the day, the choice is based on personal preferences.

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Written by nabiak

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