Food for thought: How healthy are frozen fruits and vegetables?

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Last month, actor and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow and tennis champion Serena Williams backed a US-based brand, Daily Harvest. It offers a range of frozen smoothies, soups, and meal bowls, made with predominantly organic superfood ingredients. Which begs the question: is frozen food as good for you as fresh?

Wellness expert and nutrition consultant Tripti Gupta says, “Frozen fruits and vegetables lose their nutritional richness when they are exposed to extreme temperature change and moisture levels, thus causing nutritional depletion. In fact, fruits and vegetables are more prone to losses as compared to frozen meats and grains, because they are mostly rich in water soluble vitamins and minerals, which easily get oxidized in the process of freezing.” For instance, vitamin C gets converted to its irreversible form when exposed, so you lose the nutrient completely. In minerals too, the potassium levels get affected with frozen fruits and vegetables, which get dehydrated due to temperature control and lower moisture levels.

It’s essential to let frozen fruits thaw properly before consuming them. (Shutterstock)

Gupta adds that when we thaw fruits and vegetables just after de-freezing, it suddenly speeds up their ageing process. This, in turn, causes further mineral malabsorption. “Besides nutritional value, freezing also affects the taste, texture, colour and overall palatability of that particular food, leaving it only as a simple sugar to be consumed, as opposed to a healthy wholesome fruit,” she opines.

However, one can’t deny the fact that frozen food does save time, and is often cheaper. Before consuming frozen food though, one must take precautions. Dr Siddhant Bhargava, co-founder and nutritionist, Food Darzee, says, “Before freezing foods, they are blanched [submerged for a brief period] in hot water. This is done to destroy any microbes or bacteria. If this process of blanching is imperfectly done, the food source continues to be contaminated. Freezing does not sterilise the food. So, one must make sure to let the food thaw [cool down to room temperature], then thoroughly wash it, and cook it well up to the optimal temperature for the particular food to prevent any undesirable effects.”

Another important thing to bear in mind is that certain fruits and vegetables are safer to freeze than others. Gupta recommends opting for dehydrated fruits: “They usually undergo lesser nutritional damage as compared to the moisture rich ones. So, nuts, seeds, and dried berries stay healthy even when frozen. Among vegetables, French beans, guar, carrots, cauliflower, green peas, and corn are least affect by freezing techniques.”