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    Ask the Chef: Is Frozen Food as Healthy as Fresh Food?

    By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef | November 7, 2016


    Is frozen food as healthy as fresh food?

    Many of us buy frozen food regularly, for all kinds of applications - be it a quick dinner, or a frosty smoothie. And yet frozen food is often linked with a less than stellar reputation: an assumption that this “packaged†variety of food is is never as healthy as fresh. While readymade frozen meals, often laden with preservatives, aren't any comparison to a freshly-made meal, if we're comparing single ingredient products (such as frozen broccoli versus fresh broccoli), you may be surprised to learn that frozen food is just as, if not even more, nutritious than fresh in many cases! Let's take a look at some of the reasons why.

    Many nutrients are lost in fresh produce after being picked up from the farm, shipped, and stored. In fact, as soon as a fruit or vegetable is picked, its nutrient value begins to decline. Chances are that the “fresh†produce you're buying at the supermarket was picked several days -- even weeks - ago: between being picked, packed, shipped, received, sitting on the market shelf before you bought it, and finally stored in your own refrigerator for even a couple days longer. That's a very long time for sensitive nutrients like vitamins to antioxidants to begin their process of degrading. Meanwhile the act of freezing this same produce can actually stop the degradation process in its tracks very early on.

    The positive effect of frozen food doesn't just make sense from a rational standpoint - researchers agree, too. One recent study conducted at UC Davis concurred that frozen fruits and vegetables often have more nutritional value than their fresh counterparts. The study found that in particular, freezing foods had positive effects on the content of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron. Another study from researchers at Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Chester determined that frozen fruit and vegetables are often richer in vitamin C, polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein, and beta-carotene.

    So what happens when fresh foods are frozen? While it varies from company to company, usually fresh fruits and vegetables are frozen very soon after harvest. For vegetables, the first step is usually blanching, which is essentially a quick dip in a hot water bath, to seal in color and kill harmful bacteria, and then an immediate dip in an ice water bath, to halt the cooking process. The initial heat of the water can have slight effects on certain water-soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and B, while most other nutrients remain largely unaffected. Fruits aren't typically blanched to kick off the freezing process, so even fewer of the nutrients in fruits are lost. And of course, the next step is a quick freeze - getting the produce frozen as quickly as possible in very cold chambers. As far as natural frozen ingredients go, that's it!

    A method known as freeze-drying is another sophisticated way to help fresh foods retain their nutrient content longer and keep those nutrients potent. The exact method varies a little from product to product as well, but involves freezing foods to extreme temperatures (like -40° F or below), then reducing the pressure around the ingredients to allow their water dissipate. The result is a dehydrated, fully preserved ingredient -- just add water to restore the food's natural flavor, smell, and appearance!

    Navitas Naturals offers several amazing freeze-dried superfood ingredients in powder form like including acai, pomegranate, goji, and wheatgrass. These products deliver the maximum nutrient benefit to you in a convenient and delicious way! And freeze-dried superfood powders aren't just maximizing your health gains, they're also incredibly shelf stable and easy to use in the kitchen: add them to smoothies, beverages, dips, puddings, oatmeal, desserts, and more. For more inspiration, check out the culinary tab on each of these powder products for recipe ideas that'll help you get the maximum nutrient value of these healthy “frozen†foods!

    Don't get me wrong - eating fresh foods is a wonderful thing, and should be at the base of any diet! But you can feel confident that also supplementing with some frozen and freeze-dried ingredients is a great way to ensure you're meeting your nutrient needs while taking advantage of foods with a nice long shelf-life at the same time.