Monday, November 14, 2011

Veggies: Go Frozen, Not Canned

To me, this one seems like a no-brainer.  Frozen vegetables are vastly more healthy and far more delicious than their canned counterpart.  But to some, this may be a foreign concept.  Why take up valuable freezer space when you can leave a can on the shelf and still get all the nutrients from those greens?  Well I'll tell you quickly why going frozen might be one of the best decisions you make when it comes to your diet.

Frozen vegetables actually rival fresh vegetables in overall nutritional value.  This may seem pretty hard to believe considering they're...well...frozen.  And last I knew, not much good natural plant matter can survive in ice.  But then again, what do I know?  It turns out that frozen vegetables are picked and packed at their peak of ripeness, when almost all of the nutrients you'll be consuming have fully developed inside the vegetable itself. Contrast this with fresh veggies which, while still extremely good for you, are picked at a time before they are fully ripe in order to make sure that they aren't spoiled by the time they hit supermarket shelves.  This means the nutrients in fresh vegetables usually haven't fully developed, and you aren't getting quite the quantity.

The first step in creating a bag of frozen vegetables is to blast fresh veggies with steam to kill any sort of enzymes and bacteria that might cause your food to spoil. This super heated steam will inevitably remove a small portion of the nutritional value, mostly water soluble vitamins like B and C, but not 100%.  The veggies are then flash frozen, and the remaining nutrients are then completely locked in.  Yes, that's right, they're locked up tight inside those frozen delicacies, ready to help your body whenever you decide to cook them up.  No extra preservatives are needed, the ice does all the work at keeping bacteria at bay.  Perfect, right?

Canned vegetables, while obviously better than no vegetables at all, are much less nutritious in the long run.  Despite their convenience, they're usually packed with preservatives like salt and sugar to help keep bacteria from running rampant.  To compare, a package of frozen peas has almost no sodium, usually between 0-50 mg per serving.  A package of canned peas though can have up to 400 mg of sodium.  That's a BIG difference.

To decrease the sodium content of canned vegetables, I suggest placing them in a strainer or colendar and rinsing them before eating in order to remove a lot of the salts and added sugars.

In my opinion though, frozen vegetables are not only more nutritious, but have a much "fresher," more delicious taste to them.  Canned veggies are usually slightly tainted by the preservatives used and will never quite have that "fresh from the field" taste.  This is just a personal opinion though, the nutritional comparison still stands alone.

So the bottom line:  If you want to maximize the health benefits from your vegetables, go frozen.  Though don't throw out your canned veggies, because they have plenty of nutritional value in them as well.  Again, either option is MUCH better than having none at all in your diet.

Steam them nightly, and enjoy them fully.  Good Luck!

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