The debate still stands—frozen or fresh? While there are certain instances to purchase foods fresh, such as when they are on sale or in peak season, you really can’t go wrong with buying frozen foods year-round.
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What’s more, research suggests that keeping foods frozen can actually preserve nutrients better than fresh, as nutrients degrade over time when fresh foods are stored in the fridge. And more vitamins and minerals means better health for you and your family.
While you can buy fresh, opt for frozen when it comes to these foods. They’ll taste great and work well in the kitchen, no matter what you’re cooking.
Fresh containers of spiralized vegetables, like zucchini and beet noodles, are all the rage at grocery stores. “They're great because they are lower in carbs than pasta, so I like having them in my fridge when a craving strikes,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. Yet there’s an issue—fresh versions often go bad before you get a chance to eat them.
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“The good news is that they're in the frozen section, too! Defrost and re-heat when you're ready to use, and put the rest back in the freezer without waste. It’s especially great if you're cooking for one,” she says.
Berries are picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, and they retain all their nutrients. “Raspberries are especially delicate, so before you shell out $4 for a container skim the frozen section to find them at half that price or more,” says Michalcyzk. And consider using them in warm recipes, too. ”They are just as nutritious as fresh, and sometimes even add a better texture and juicy taste when warmed up from frozen vs. the fresh ones,” she says.
“We know that broccoli has a wealth of nutrients like calcium, fiber, vitamin C and A, but unfortunately after it's been in your fridge for a while its nutrition content starts to decrease,” says Michalczyk. Opt for frozen instead and use it sparingly in veggies bowls, with pasta, or as a side to your protein. If you're going to eat your green veggies, don't you want to get the most out of them?
There’s no denying that butternut squash takes some serious work in the kitchen. “Buying butternut squash frozen in my book is completely worth it for the convenience factor. Frozen to reheated can happen in five minutes but peeling, cutting and roasting from fresh can take a whole afternoon,” says Michalczyk. If you need it for a recipe, or just want it as part of your dinner, buy frozen to save time and extra money.
Blueberries are one of the best fruits to purchase frozen when out of season. “Their antioxidants are preserved when they are picked and immediately frozen while fresh blueberries out of season lose antioxidant capacity in their transport across the country and while sitting on grocery shelves,” says Kelly R. Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. You can then add to smoothies, juices, oatmeal, salads, and more.
“Spinach is one of the most nutritious green foods out there, so you don't want to miss out on all of its antioxidant, vitamin and mineral benefits when your leaves lose freshness,” says Michalczyk. Instead, buy frozen spinach and use it freely in all of your meals, whenever you need it. It's a lot cheaper in the frozen section and will last you so much longer.
“Frozen avocado is becoming more available in stores. It's perfect if you like to add avocado to smoothies or use it in dressings and sauces,” says Jones. You don't have to wait for the perfect level of ripeness in order to get that desired creamy texture, and you also won't need to risk waiting too long and letting them spoil.
If you like to eat bell peppers cooked over fresh, then frozen sliced bell peppers will retain more vitamin C and antioxidants than chopped fresh bell peppers will, says Jones. “Once chopped, Vitamin C is oxidized, so if it is frozen right away, the nutrient is preserved vs. if it is chopped and packaged fresh at the grocery store,” she explains. They also tend to be a bargain compared to buying whole fresh peppers, which is of course another plus.
This article first appeared on Cooking Light.