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Freezing fresh produce is a very effective way of preserving food for long-term use.
With the increase in the number of dual-income households came a drastic reduction in time spent preparing healthy nutritious meals. This led to a rise in the popularity of frozen foods such as fruits, vegetables, and marinated and ready-to-cook meats.
An estimated 6.5% rise is expected in the frozen food industry by 2025 in the United States. (1)
Pros of Frozen Foods
There is a lot of debate about frozen foods and whether they are the best choice. But some of their benefits are undeniable.
1. Preserves nutritional value
Many experts argue that freezing fresh produce such as berries, peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, and spinach can lock in and preserve their nutritive value.
In a study to evaluate certain common vitamins (including vitamins C, B9, and A and beta-carotene), it was found that there was no significant difference in frozen and fresh produce except for a slight reduction in beta-carotene. (2)
Similarly, another recent study showed the preservation of nutrients in mustard greens when frozen long term without blanching. (3)
2. Cost effective
Freezing is considered a low-cost preservation technique and requires little maintenance apart from cold storage. Because of this, frozen foods are generally lower in price. (1)
However, this also depends on the region and the availability of food being frozen.
3. Convenient to prepare
Frozen foods are often easy to consume. They are already cleaned, peeled, shelled, or pureed, and all that needs to be done is to pour them out or mix them with other ingredients (such as frozen fruits for smoothies). This process makes it a convenient way to cook for busy families.
A study in 2017 showed that most parents turned to frozen meals due to their convenience. (4)
While frozen ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook meals are not recommended due to the high levels of processing and added sugars and salt, (5) using frozen ingredients can save time while also being healthy.
4. Makes seasonal foods available all year long
Freezing foods is an easy way to make them easily available despite seasonal variations. It also makes transport more convenient without the fear of waste. (1)
Though there is an increasing worry about a decrease in nutritive quality and taste in long-term freezing, many studies have proven that vitamin C and B complex are retained well in frozen foods. (1)
5. Preserves taste
Consumers tend to give a lot of preference to taste and color when choosing convenient foods. Many studies have shown that freezing foods (such as fruits and veggies) preserves the taste.
A particular study evaluating frozen carrot halwa (a dessert made from grated carrots and sugar) found it to be equally good when compared to fresh halwa. (6)
A more recent study also evaluated the acceptance and likelihood of infants trying a new vegetable when fed frozen versus sterilized nonfrozen foods. At the end of 3 months, infants were more open to trying a new vegetable when they were given frozen foods. (7)
Cons of Frozen Foods
Before you make up your mind on frozen foods, here are some things you need to consider too.
1. Limits cooking methods
Since frozen foods are often cut before freezing, the recipes they can be utilized in are limited. This may create monotony and boredom when preparing and consuming meals.
2. Limits variety
Only certain foods can be frozen, limiting their availability in areas where fresh produce is scarce or difficult to transport to.
3. May contain preservatives that are harmful to health
When individual ingredients are frozen, they are often done so without the use of preservatives. However, products such as sauces, processed meats, or frozen meals can be riddled with additional preservatives that are not good for human health.
From causing obesity to disrupting hormones, (8) preservative-rich foods are best avoided as much as possible.
4. May be high in sodium and fat
Frozen foods, especially cured meats (such as sausages) and ready-to-eat meals (such as pizza) run the risk of being high in salt and fat.
A prominent market survey found 1/5th of the meals studied to be high in saturated fat and salt, despite being labeled as the “healthier” option. (5)
A diet high in sodium and saturated fat is detrimental to health. It increases the risk of developing hypertension, obesity, lowered metabolism, and type 2 diabetes. (9)
5. May become contaminated due to temperature fluctuations
Freezing decreases the activity of microorganisms and generally makes frozen food safe for consumption. However, if temperatures fluctuate during transportation or storage, contamination from disease-causing pathogens can ensue.
Additionally, some viruses that can survive freezing may be present and cause diseases via food that is consumed raw (such as frozen fruits). (10)
One way to prevent this is to purchase frozen foods that can be cooked before eating such as frozen vegetables or green leafy vegetables. A study corroborated this by observing a lower risk of contamination and growth of disease-causing bacteria in cooked frozen vegetables. (11)
6. Inconvenient storage
Storing frozen food requires the presence of frozen storage space and electricity to keep a steady temperature. These may not be accessible to everyone.
Freezing Your Own Food
Freezing your own food at home is easy and can save you a ton of time throughout the week. This allows you to batch-prep and customize your vegetables.
For example, you can peel and cut carrots into different sizes depending on the meal you intend it for. This convenience is not offered by store-bought frozen foods.
To freeze your own foods, follow these processes:
- Wash your fruits and vegetables well. Peel and chop into desired shapes. Spread them out on a wide plate or baking sheet and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes. When the individual pieces are frozen, add them to a food storage bag and store until needed.
- Alternatively, you can prepare your own nuggets, veggie nuggets, or kababs and freeze them until needed.
- Preparing frozen meals can ensure quality and preservative-free foods for you and your family.
Most-Asked Questions About Frozen Foods
Can I give frozen food to children?
While selecting frozen foods for children, choose frozen ingredients over frozen ready-to-eat meals. In addition, you can safely prepare certain items such as nuggets or kababs ahead of time and freeze them to be used on busy nights.
Can people with diabetes eat frozen meals?
People with type 2 diabetes can eat frozen ingredients such as fruits and vegetables. However, due to the risk of high amounts of salt, fat, and possibly sugar, it is better to avoid ready-to-eat frozen meals.
- Freezing is an effective way to preserve foods that either are not easily available or are seasonal.
- The pros of using frozen foods include convenience, preserved nutrition, less waste, and easy availability of healthy food.
- The cons of using frozen foods include preservatives that can be harmful, risk of contamination, difficult storage, and limited variety of ingredients and recipes they can be used in.
- Foods can also be frozen at home to ensure preservative-free and easy meals for busy weeknights.
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