Preserves are wonderful, nutritious foods that will give you the nutrition you need to help your body fight disease and maintain your health. (More on that in a later post.) But does that mean that preserved food is the go-to food for healthy weight loss?
If you had to pick a fruit or vegetable to serve as a centerpiece for a dinner table, which one would you choose? Perhaps it would be the apple, with its bright red flesh, crunchy seeds, and sweet taste? Or maybe it would be the tomato, it’s mild yet zesty flavor? Or perhaps it would be the cucumber, its refreshing, crisp texture? No matter which green you choose, you can be sure to impress.
Preserved produce, or jams and jellies, are easy to make and can be a delicious alternative to the typical fruit jar of preserves, which tend to be packed with sugar and are sometimes unhealthy. Though there are many types of jam, jelly, or syrup, the two most popular kinds are apple slices and watered down apple slices.
You’re weary, you haven’t planned for dinner, and your refrigerator is devoid of fresh vegetables.
You could take that bag of frozen broccoli out of the freezer… But isn’t that the equal of a cardboard box in terms of nutrition? Instead, you order a supreme pizza with extra cheese and reasoning on the side.
Was that, in fact, the best option?
In the context of canned/frozen fruits and veggies
It may sound counterintuitive, but canned/frozen vegetables/fruits are among your greatest options in terms of nutrients per food dollar. Canned/frozen vegetables/fruits have essentially identical nutrient profiles to fresh vegetables/fruits, according to the FDA and IFIC.
The majority of people assume that canning or freezing fruits and vegetables depletes their nutritional value. However, we must keep in mind that entire plant foods make up only 12% of the average American diet. Yikes.
Adding a bag of frozen cauliflower to the aforementioned diet won’t make things any worse.
Low vegetable/fruit intake is ranked #6 on the WHO’s list of 20 global mortality risk factors. Consumption of these items in sufficient quantities could save up to 2.7 million lives per year.
So let’s get three things out of the way right away.
- Fruits and vegetables are beneficial to your health.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are not substantially worse than canned or frozen fruits and vegetables.
- In the context of the Western diet, any fruits and vegetables, in whatever form, are likely to be beneficial.
What are the benefits of preserving fruits and vegetables?
Seasons come and go. If you don’t have a home garden that can provide 10 servings of fresh vegetables/fruits all year, you might want to start with canned/frozen selections.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are prone to moisture loss and microbiological deterioration. Refrigeration can help to slow the process, but canning/freezing stops moisture loss, nutrient loss, and microorganism growth.
Many people already choose to buy fruits and vegetables that have been preserved. A comparison of consumer habits is shown below. As you can see, while some consumers enjoy fresh foods (like asparagus), they are more likely to purchase preserved foods like pineapple or tomatoes.
Rickman, JC, et al., Rickman, JC, et al., Rickman, JC, Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables are compared nutritionally. Part 1 of 2. Vitamins C and B, as well as phenolic chemicals, are all beneficial. 2007;87:930-944. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
Keeping nutrients safe
Harvesting a vegetable/fruit disconnects it from its nutrient supply.
More nutrients are lost the longer a food is removed from the soil. Nutrient losses occur when fresh foods are left sitting around. Additional nutrient losses can occur as a result of food washing, peeling, and cooking.
Some vitamins may have been lost between 15 and 60% by the time you pick up a fresh vegetable or fruit at the grocery store (unless purchased and consumed within 72 hours of harvest). The vitamins in canned/frozen versions of the same vegetable/fruit have typically lost no more than 20% of their potency.
Compare the vitamin C concentration of fresh and frozen peas, spinach, and French beans in this table.
Vitamin C concentration (mg/100g)
|Peas that have just been plucked||22.1|
|Peas in their natural state (after 2 days)||14.1|
|spinach that has just been plucked||17.0|
|Spaghetti with fresh spinach (after 2 days)||4.1|
|French beans, just plucked||16.4|
|Beans from France fraîches (after 2 days)||7.9|
|French beans, frozen||14.3|
Four factors influence the nutritional content of preserved plant foods:
- Harvest season
- Conditions of growth
- Method of preparation
One of the most effective ways to preserve as many nutrients as possible is to freeze them. When plant foods are frozen, they are frequently blanched (immersed quickly in boiling water) to inhibit microbial development and preserve color. Then they’re frozen in the blink of an eye (immediately taken in small batches to freezing).
VIDEO: Behind the scenes of frozen foods
Some nutrients (including phytochemicals) can be made more accessible by blanching. According to several studies, certain nutrients are higher in frozen vegetables than in fresh or canned vegetables. Even with delicate blueberries, the antioxidant levels are similar in canned, frozen, fresh, and dried versions.
Cooking can leech out nutrients, especially vitamins B1 and C, regardless of whether the food is canned, frozen, or fresh, with vitamin C being the least stable. If you want to get the most nutrients out of your meal, don’t overcook it. Microwaving and steaming appear to aid in nutrient retention.
Vitamins A, D, and E, as well as most carotenoids, are fat-soluble, which means they won’t be degraded by blanching or washing. However, in the presence of light, heat, and oxygen, they are susceptible to oxidation. This can be reduced by canning or freezing (compared to purchasing fresh, storing at home, and then preparing).
Furthermore, we absorb carotenoids better from heated foods than from raw foods. As a result, canned or frozen meals may be a better source of these nutrients.
Minerals are tenacious. Light, heat, and oxygen have no effect on them. As a result, substantial mineral loss from canned/frozen foods is uncommon.
Minerals are removed from meals through a combination of leaching into the cooking water (which is usually little) and mechanical processing (e.g., the stems of mushrooms are often removed before canning them).
Because of the uptake of calcium and other minerals from hard water during processing, canned vegetables may have higher levels of calcium and other minerals. When foods are canned in tin-plated steel, iron levels can rise while copper levels fall.
Only when the product is mechanically separated (e.g., peels, skins, stems, etc.) does fiber loss occur, as with canned asparagus and tomatoes. Canned beans/legumes have the same fiber content as fresh beans/legumes.
Food preservation concerns
What about the natural world?
Food preservation necessitates the use of energy, resources, and fuel. The act of maintaining the right temperature in a freezer consumes energy, and the coolant used in freezers can be harmful to the environment.
Cans are manufactured mostly of aluminum or tin-plate steel, which can be recycled. This is superior than most frozen foods in plastic bags (some frozen items, such as Stahlbush Island, are in biodegradable bags).
Is BPA present in canned foods?
Some businesses are dedicated to using BPA-free can linings (like Eden Organics). Consult the manufacturer of the products you intend to purchase. Here’s where you can learn more about BPA in canned foods.
So, how about nitrates and nitrites?
To keep canned meats and fish from spoiling, sodium nitrates/nitrites are sometimes added. They can generate nitrosamines when mixed with amino acids in an acidic environment (i.e., your stomach). Nitrosamines have been related to the development of cancer. See All About Cooking and Carcinogens for further information. Many companies are now employing alternate preservation processes, so double-check the ingredients.
What about sugar, salt, and preservatives, for example?
This is particularly crucial when it comes to canned meals. Many fruits, for example, are canned in sugar solutions (look for the words “syrup,” “juice,” or “sweetened” on the label), and many vegetables (like tomatoes) are heavy in sodium. Some canned vegetables include oil as well. Always read labels thoroughly!
Draining and rinsing canned goods before eating is one method. Draining and rinsing canned beans is a great way to cut down on salt. In one experiment, the sodium per serving was reduced by 41%, from 503 mg to 295 mg.
Enjoying nutrient-dense canned beans while lowering salt intake. VegetableWithMore.com
And, believe it or not, there are low-sodium, no-salt-added, preservative-free, no-sugar-added options available.
What about squandered food?
Do you have some rotten asparagus lurking in the back of your refrigerator? That’s how much food is thrown away.
We squander around a quarter of all the food we buy for the house (for more see All About Food Waste). You don’t have to worry about food waste with frozen/canned goods because the stems, stalks, peels, and rinds have already been removed. Furthermore, you only use what you require at the time you require it.
Conclusions and suggestions
Who has a body that is likely to be slimmer and healthier?
- That is the individual who consumes two bowls of frozen cauliflower every day?
- The individual who consumes two bags of chips/pretzels instead of vegetables since frozen/canned options don’t appeal to them?
Just eat more vegetables and fruits, whether they’re fresh, frozen, or tinned. Frozen cauliflower is more likely to be beneficial to your health than a moon pie.
Fresh fruits and vegetables may taste better than frozen or canned versions, but they only contain significantly more nutrients when they are grown locally and directly from the ground. Fresh foods lose nutrients over time, but frozen foods, in particular, have higher nutrient content than we may assume.
If you want to keep the nutrients in your food, steam, stew, or microwave it. Don’t overcook the food.
Look for substances you don’t want, such as sugar, salt, preservatives, and/or oils, on the labels. If required, drain and rinse canned items.
Try this to keep the earth from exploding in the next months:
- Make sure your home freezer is adequately stocked (this will save energy).
- Keep your freezer at -18 degrees Celsius (0 F).
- Cans from canned foods should be recycled.
- Look for frozen items that are packaged in biodegradable bags.
- Look for canned foods that are free of BPA.
Do you have a pattern of buying the same three produce items? You can add variety to your diet by using canned and frozen foods.
Allowing frozen goods to thaw at room temperature will not eliminate any bacteria that may be present.
Defrosted frozen food liquids may include nutrients.
Until the late 1940s, most individuals did not have freezers to keep frozen food.
Because nutrients are altered by washing, peeling, heating, oxygen, water losses, and extra preparation at home, nutrient labels on packages aren’t always reliable.
Because of their fragile structure, fruits are rarely blanched.
Frozen legumes may provide a minor nutritional advantage over canned beans.
Operating costs might rise by approximately 50% if your freezer is next to a heat source (such as your oven).
One of the simplest and most effective ways of preserving fruits and vegetables is in a jar of brine. Brine is a mixture of salt and water. When refrigerated, brine preserves food for months or even years.. Read more about reasons for food preservation and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What nutrients do foods lose when they are preserved?
Foods lose water, minerals, and vitamins when they are preserved.
Is preserved food good for health?
Preserved food is good for health, but its not the best option.
What are some examples of preserved foods?
Preserved foods are typically food that have been processed in a way to prevent them from spoiling. This can be done by adding salt, sugar, or vinegar.