Which is Best? Canned, Frozen or Fresh?

By Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D. Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist Colorado State University Extension January 22, 1997 From:

Which is better for your health: fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables? The answer is: Any and all.

Canned fruits and vegetables often are considered nutritionally inferior to their fresh and frozen counterparts. While this may be true regarding sugar and salt content, it's not true when it comes to other nutrients. In fact, in a recent study completed at the University of Illinois, many of the canned fruits and vegetables evaluated contained as much or more of certain nutrients than their fresh and frozen counterparts.

For example, most brands of canned apricots, spinach and pumpkin provided more vitamin A per serving than their fresh- cooked counterparts. Also, canned asparagus, potatoes and spinach tended to outrank or equal fresh-cooked varieties for vitamin C. On the other hand, fresh-cooked tomatoes tended to be higher in vitamin C and fresh-cooked carrots higher in vitamin A per serving than canned or frozen types.

One reason canned (and frozen) fruits and vegetables sometimes rank nutritionally superior to fresh produce is they're usually processed immediately after harvest, when nutrient content is at its peak. This is especially true when it comes to the vitamin C found in green vegetables. The longer a green vegetable sits on a truck or in the supermarket, the lower its vitamin C content. Because they are more acidic, fresh (as well as frozen and canned) fruits are less susceptible to loss of vitamin C during storage.

This is not to say there aren't downsides to eating canned versus fresh and frozen products. Canned vegetables are notoriously high in sodium and canned fruits packed in syrup are high in sugar. However, with the growing popularity of low sodium and low sugar versions of products, most manufacturers now offer low-sodium and salt-free versions of their canned vegetables. In addition, juice-packed fruits generally are available at a cost similar to fruits packed in syrup.

The other downside is taste. Many fruit and vegetable lovers simply prefer the taste, texture and look of fresh and fresh-cooked produce. Canned and fresh-cooked green beans simply are not the same product. Nor are canned, frozen and fresh- cooked corn.

Still, the University of Illinois study underscores a message nutritionists have long emphasized: canned and frozen produce is a nutritionally sound alternative to fresh fruits and veggies. Frozen and canned products are particularly good to have on hand for times when you can't get to the store for fresh products or when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season or out of your price range.

Contributed by Edit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.