Frozen, canned fruits, vegetables healthful options

April 22, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

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 is not true when it comes to other nutrients. In a recent study, 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 freshly cooked counterparts. Canned asparagus, potatoes and spinach tended to outrank or equal freshly cooked varieties for vitamin C. Freshly cooked tomatoes tended to be higher in vitamin C and freshly cooked carrots higher in vitamin A per serving than canned or frozen types.

Loss of vitamin C

One reason canned and frozen fruits and vegetables sometimes rank nutritionally superior to fresh produce is that 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.


There is a negative side to eating canned rather than fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. 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 are generally available at a similar cost to those fruits packed in syrup.

Many fruit and vegetable lovers prefer the taste, texture and look of fresh and freshly cooked produce. Canned and freshly cooked green beans are not the same product. Nor are canned, frozen and freshly cooked corn.

Although fresh and even frozen fruits and vegetables often seem more appealing, the health message is that canned and frozen produce is a nutritionally sound alternative to fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen and canned products particularly are good to have on hand for times when you can't get to the store for fresh produce or when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season and out of your price range.

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension agent, home economics, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Maryland.

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