Fresh vs. Frozen Fruits & Vegetables & The Low FODMAP Diet
First off lets just say right away that there are tons of fruits and veggies that you can enjoy while on the low FODMAP diet. We hear people say all the time that they think they have to give up fruits and vegetables and nothing could be further than the truth.
One look at the Monash University Smartphone App Fruit and Vegetable categories and so many low FODMAP Green Light choices are staring back at us.
We regularly include green beans and lettuces, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, summer and winter squashes, radishes, fennel, tomatoes, corn and so many more into our diet on regular rotation. For fruit we enjoy bananas, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, papaya, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all the time. (Always consult your Monash University Smartphone App for amounts).
Are Fresh Vegetables Better Than Frozen?
Recently I was listening to NPR and they did a story that caught my attention. It was about the virtues of frozen fruits and vegetables and I figured, this is a perfect example about how real life and even mainstream media still applies to us FODMAPers.
Let’s talk about the obvious points first:
Studies have shown that the mere fact that you might have produce at hand in the freezer means that you will eat them. A Journal of Nutrition study tells us that recommended vegetable intake is unmet in 90% of individuals in at least half of the 14 age groups they studied, so this is no small point. Also, frozen produce is ready-to-use. Fruits and vegetables are washed, often pre-cut and they are ready to be steamed, blanched, simmered or microwaved – or thrown right into the blender for the best smoothies. For many people, what is “easy” guides their choices.
In general frozen fruits and vegetables are actually less expensive than fresh – even for organic. This makes the fruit and vegetables more accessible to many people. And, there is no waste. You get to eat what you buy, and for many people waste is a huge issue that they want to address.
Frozen produce lasts longer than fresh and they are there for you when you need them. Also, they are usually just the fruit or vegetable themselves with no salt, sugar or preservatives added, as so often happens with canned, and this offers more flexibility in recipes where you might not want the added ingredients. Also, every now and then we want strawberries and they are out-of-season for fresh, but they are always in the freezer section!
Taste & Nutrition
Let’s delve into taste and nutrition, one at a time. Around here if something doesn’t taste good, we don’t want to cook with it! With frozen vegetables we think the flavor can often be fine but texture typically suffers. Every palate and tolerance for such things is different, so you will have to make your own decisions.
Certainly some vegetable’s texture seems to survive the deep-freeze better than others.
Here are some we like to use:
Frozen blueberries, strawberries and raspberries in crisps, cobblers and pies. Smoothies, too. And frozen pineapple is fantastic in frozen drinks as well as dipped in chocolate. All of these are all readily available, too.
For vegetables we will sometimes buy frozen spinach or kale to add to casseroles or soups. It’s easy to find multi-color frozen bell peppers and those come in handy for Mexican inspired dishes like fajitas and burritos.
Rhubarb freezes well, but we bag it ourselves in heavy zip top bags for future use because it isn’t typically available in our stores.
Let’s Talk Nutrition
Researchers from the University of California Davis were quoted in the NPR story. Upon further digging it was revealed that the study was conducted in partnership with The Frozen Food Foundation, but the study protocols appear solid.
The methodologies were designed to eliminate discrepancies in the harvesting, handling and storage of fruits and vegetables used in the analysis. The fruits and vegetables were analyzed as followed:
- Frozen were analyzed within 24 hours of harvest and after 10 and 90 days of storage in a freezer.
- Fresh were analyzed within 24 hours of harvest and after three and 10 days of storage in a refrigerator.
The study results revealed that the nutritional value of frozen fruits and vegetables are generally equal to their fresh counterparts and in some cases the frozen even exceeded the fresh.
If you are interested in Vitamin C, it is interesting to note that no Vitamin C loss was recorded in the frozen produce for strawberries, carrots, spinach, broccoli, corn, green beans and blueberries. In those last three the Vitamin C in the frozen was significantly higher in the frozen versus fresh.
According to Dr. Diane Barrett, who was quoted during the NPR story, the amount of Vitamin A and E in particularly were retained very well in frozen produce. For minerals, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron as well as fiber and total phenolics (health-promoting plant compounds) were overall very well preserved in frozen fruits and vegetables as compared to fresh.
Barrett called out blueberries in particular, stating that after 1 year of storage that their nutrient content was largely retained whereas fresh blueberries lose their nutrients through oxidation within 1 week and then the numbers continue to decline. She said the same thing about peas, but we won’t be eating any high FODMAP peas anytime soon!
Barrett said that this vitamin and mineral retention is mostly due to the fact that produce is typically frozen and processed very close to where the produce is grown, which allows this to happen very soon after harvesting – often within hours.
Choices! Whether You Are FODMAPing or Not
It is always good to have choices and now you know that if you are trying to get more fruits and veggies into your diet and the convenience of frozen beckons – then go for it! Of course we love going to the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning, but we recognize that this is not always possible or preferable. We are happy to have choices!