Verdict: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits?

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Should you eat fresh, frozen, or canned fruits? I have been asked this question multiple times and I always answer it the same way—that depends.

Oftentimes, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as tasty, crisp, fresh, and contain similar amounts of nutrients as fresh ones. I have also found that frozen can be cheaper depending on the time of year and availability of your favorite produce.

What about canned fruits and vegetables?

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In my opinion, canned products are usually the cheapest option but you sometimes have to watch out for the amount of sodium and sugar contained in the can. Read the labels and drain or wash the contents before eating. What about freshness and taste? Well, depending upon the brand, this can vary considerably. As far as canned fruits are concerned, watch out for the products that are packed in syrup or water and sugar.

Recently, this comparison has been put to the test.

Researchers examined the data from 40 studies and analyzed the nutrient quality and cost of 10 different types of fruits and eight different vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned varieties). The products were individually scored for nutrient concentration per calorie and the average cost per serving.

The Verdict

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The results? The fruits and vegetables had the same amount of nutrients, regardless of whether they were fresh, frozen, or canned. The only difference was the cost of each type of vegetable. They found that canned fruits and vegetables were consistently the cheapest.

“By increasing accessibility to key nutrients many Americans need, canned foods are a year-round solution to help families prepare healthier, balanced meals,” said Steven Miller, director of Michigan State University’s Center for Economic Analysis.

The results of this study indicate that the nutrient values of some common fruits and vegetables really don’t vary much depending upon whether they are fresh, frozen or canned. However, the cost can be a factor when deciding what to buy for yourself and your family. Since fresh and frozen produce may be expensive or not readily available, canned options may be a safe bet. Canned vegetables and fruits also can be stored for months without any worries about spoilage or freezer burn.

The Downside?

The only downside may be the taste and degree of freshness.

I have always noticed a difference between canned vegetables and either fresh or frozen and if given the choice, I would certainly buy fresh or frozen vegetables or fruits.

However, when cost is a key issue, canned fruits and vegetables may be an excellent and nutritious option for you to consider.

Sources:
“5 Studies You May Have Missed,” CNN Health web site; http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/07/5-studies-you-may-have-missed-22/, last accessed March 11, 2014.

Miller, S., et al., “Nutrition and Cost Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen, and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables,” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. February 27, 2014.