Which is Better: Canned or Frozen Vegetables?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  85 comments   :  218,968 Views

Fresh fruits and vegetables serve as a nutritional powerhouse for most healthy diets. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals, they also help protect against disease. Sure there are small health risks from pesticides, but those are easily dealt with by selecting organically certified produce. While fresh produce can be more costly and make them challenging for a tight budget, there are tips to make them more affordable. Fresh produce can require more time to peel, slice, dice, and chop, but pre-cut, pre-washed, and ready to serve options save time for a slightly higher cost.

When fresh vegetables are not available, practical, or economically feasible, canned and frozen provide another alternative. Both are convenient and readily available but which is better nutritionally?

Canning is a process that extends the shelf life of perishable foods. The first American canning factory was established in New York City in 1812 for preserving oysters, meats, fruits, and vegetables. While the process has changed over the years, the benefit of convenience has not. Today, canned vegetables make it possible to enjoy many favorites all year long instead of just during the growing season. A 1997 study by The University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition found that the canning process does not affect the fiber content allowing canned vegetables to maintain the same content as fresh or frozen. They also found that the heating process increases the solubility, which increases use by the body. This is important to note especially if you have problems with gas or bloating after consumption. The study also found that key vitamins such as vitamin A, carotenes, and Vitamin C hold up well under heat during canning and levels are retained in canned products.

Most vegetables are canned at their peak in quality to capture and maintain the taste and nutrition. Fresh produce shipped in instead of coming from a local farmer's market may spend several weeks on the road or in the supermarket before they make it to your table. They also may have been treated with chemicals to help slow the spoilage process and to enhance color for quick sale. When fresh produce is processed directly for canning, it is quickly heated to destroy microorganisms that cause food spoilage or food borne illness. Since the food is uniformly heated in the can, no preservatives are needed and the taste, texture, and nutritional value is retained. When sodium chloride (salt) is added, it is for flavor and not for preservation. Calcium chloride may also be added especially to foods like canned tomatoes or other vegetables where maintaining shape is desirable. This can be a plus if you have a difficult time meeting your daily calcium needs. The FDA deemed frozen vegetables equal to fresh related to essential nutrients and health benefits in a 1998 report. Since vegetables are picked at their peak, blanched then flash frozen, nutrients are quickly locked in. Normally, nutrients begin being lost as soon as produce is picked. Frozen vegetables processed quickly after harvest only lose about twenty percent of their nutrition. The amount of loss can be over double that amount for some fresh produce before making it to your table. Frozen vegetables are the closest thing to fresh and sometimes even better.

The Bottom Line

Many of us have to work and plan to meet our recommended vegetable servings each day. Most of us need more of them in our diets. Fresh organically grown vegetables that come right from the garden to your table are the most nutritious choice. If you have not yet planted your own garden, consider visiting a farmer's market to get the most nutritious produce.

Frozen vegetables are the next best thing to fresh when it comes to nutrition for those times you are in need of convenience or have trouble finding fresh organic options. Steaming or microwaving frozen vegetables is the best way to retain key nutrients. Since nutrients are leached out in water when boiled, be sure to drink the water to get all the nutrients that have been lost when boiling is necessary.

Sometimes canned vegetables are all that are available. Eating canned vegetables is better than selecting other processed foods in their place. Canned vegetables are also safe as well as nutritious, especially when low sodium or sodium-free choices are made. Since BPA can be found in cans, it is best to limit their use when possible. If you find that consuming canned beans and legumes lead to gas, bloating and discomfort, rinse and drain them first. Or consider soaking dry sources for several hours before eating or use in recipes to decrease those negative side effects.

How are you doing with your daily vegetable intake? Do you use fresh most frequently or do you find convenience causes you to select frozen or canned?

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    I try to buy from a local market down the street but it isn't always open. Then I buy frozen and try not to buy canned goods, as the lining of the can leaches into the food. - 8/27/2010   7:28:46 AM
  • 34
    I try to buy fresh whenever possible. When I can't I usually get frozen. That way I can control our salt intake. I love the article, thanks for sharing. DJ - 8/27/2010   7:23:48 AM
  • 33
    I buy fresh local produce wherever possible. The only frozen veg I buy regularly is peas, actually prefering frozen petit pois to fresh peas, and the only stuff I buy canned is beans.
    I don't think frozen does a lot of favours for the texture of many veggies, and I've never liked tinned veg.
    But I'm a very fussy eater when it comes to veg. I just love fresh produce! :-) - 8/27/2010   5:48:55 AM
    I use mostly fresh when in season, but according to the article, I think I'll use more frozen. - 8/27/2010   5:16:09 AM
  • 31
    I buy mostly fresh, organic when I can afford it and use some frozen when the product isn't available fresh. I don't use canned except for baked beans. - 8/27/2010   4:42:29 AM
  • 30
    Fresh in season, frozen more often in the winter, canned rarely. Thanks for the info. I've alwayas been curious about which is more benficial. - 8/27/2010   2:04:35 AM
  • 29
    I buy mainly fresh but always have frozen for when I run out. I don't eat canned (except tomato/beetroot/asparagus.) I'm not keen on the taste, usually has too much sodium, and I'm not keen on the texture, and with greens, the colour :-(

    The canned stuff is useful for times when the power is off for extended periods of time or other nature-type emergencies.

    Kris - 8/27/2010   1:15:57 AM
  • 28
    Depends on what it is, what I'm making and the season, but I eat both. - 8/27/2010   12:52:50 AM
  • 27
    I buy frozen, which are cheaper. - 8/27/2010   12:46:42 AM
  • 26
    Well, I enjoy fresh and then my personal canned garden veggies, then commercially frozen then canned from the store. - 8/27/2010   12:00:01 AM
  • WANDAC2013
    Love fressh from my garden, however the squirrels ate almost everything this year. So, frozen is my choice! May start doing a stir fry with some frozen veggies and the organically-fed squirrels that are running rampant here! - 8/26/2010   11:57:38 PM
  • 24
    First choice, fresh, then frozen, last canned. Used to love only canned but now can hardly stand them - 8/26/2010   10:57:02 PM
  • 23
    I used mostly frozen, fresh when in season. On the frozen I micro wave them inside of a freezer bag, in a bowl. no extra water, they are steamed. delish! - 8/26/2010   8:49:42 PM
  • 22
    it's always good to know what's good and what's not!!! thanks for the info - 8/26/2010   8:42:16 PM
    when i can i love fresh . but fresh frozen is next . canned is ok if i am canning the fresh . but canned from the store is not as good as any of them . - 8/26/2010   6:21:28 PM
  • 20
    I buy my produce at a Farmers Market when I can, most of the Veggies and fruit are locally grown.I buy organic whenever I can, if they aren't too expensive. If I don't use fresh I usually go to the frozen, but I have been know to open a tin occassionally! - 8/26/2010   5:05:36 PM
  • 19
    I easily eat 3-4 cups of salad greens a day for lunch.
    Plus other veggies added to the salad. We often have two non-starchy veggies for supper.

    You have to watch your labels, but in most cases the frozen is lower in sodium. You have to watch that frozen doesn't have unwanted sauces and calories. I buy mostly frozen. But I buy tomato products canned, and keep a few other items on hand in case of a power failure.
    P.S. Home canning with no sodium added is a great alternative if you have the time and the equipment.

    - 8/26/2010   5:01:06 PM
  • MAMMA321
    i never do buy canned vegetables always frozen veggies. - 8/26/2010   4:35:02 PM
  • 17
    So, what about home canned veggies straight from our garden with no salt used in the canning process?? - 8/26/2010   3:55:01 PM
  • 16
    I quit buying canned a long time ago, because the amount of sodium they use is a real eye opener. If by chance I have to use canned over frozen, I always rinse the contents, except in the case of canned tomatoes and chilis. Whenever possible, I can my own. That way, I can regulate what is added to the final product. For everything else, if it's not fresh, it's frozen. - 8/26/2010   3:40:52 PM
    I guess my husband has been right all these years. He will not eat canned Veggies he says he doesn't like the taste of them. So for the past 10 years we have only been eating fresh or frozen Veggies. I am also glad to see my microwaving them instead of cooking them in water is a good thing too. Wow .. this was very informative I am glad I read it. - 8/26/2010   2:22:01 PM
  • 14
    I only buy canned beans, either fresh produce or the steam fresh bags if its frozen. - 8/26/2010   1:55:46 PM
  • 13
    I have done well as of late. I buy alot of fresh and frozen, rarely do I buy canned. - 8/26/2010   1:50:24 PM
    I do fresh as much as possible. After that, I do frozen. I don't buy canned vegetables. I just can't do it! - 8/26/2010   1:44:55 PM
  • 11
    We have a local farmer's market which brings it in fresh each morning. I take it home and clean it and blanch it and then freeze it for later use. I do the same with fresh in the store. If its corn I cook it and take off the kernals and freeze it for later use. I use throughout the summer and winter. - 8/26/2010   1:22:02 PM
  • 10
    My dh and I have a garden and what a blessing it is! The flavor of our cherry tomatoes is out of this world and the broccoli is so much better than any other I've had. My only downfall is I don't know how to can, but it can be learned and I hope by next season, I'll have it mastered! - 8/26/2010   12:57:28 PM
    I love fresh vegetables, but if not available frozen is my next choice. - 8/26/2010   12:56:41 PM
  • 8
    I love fresh veggies but if I can't find good ones frozen is the next best choice for me. - 8/26/2010   12:32:59 PM
  • 7
    I think this is a great article! I recently switched from buying fresh to frozen because the fresh went bad so quickly. I'm glad to know I made a positive switched. I rarely buy canned vegetables unless it's diced tomatoes or green chiles. Thanks! - 8/26/2010   12:09:16 PM
  • 6
    I eat fresh, frozen, and canned, it just depends on the veggie. I like canned Water Chestnuts, Asian Baby Corn, and Beans. I like frozen Edamame, and I like to keep frozen veggies like broccoli on hand just in case. Every thing else I do fresh. - 8/26/2010   12:04:27 PM
  • 5
    I always get frozen vs. in the can if it's available. But my family prefers home canned to anything we can purchase in the stores. Hands down. - 8/26/2010   11:44:26 AM
  • 4
    This blog has some really helpful information. Thanks! And no offense, but I won't be drinking my green bean or corn water any time soon... Yuck. Unless its repurposed like using it for soup stock or to cook rice in which case I'll keep that in mind. - 8/26/2010   11:38:24 AM
  • 3
    I FROZE A BUCH OF BEANS OUT OF MY GARDEN.. - 8/26/2010   11:35:38 AM
  • 2
    Thanks for the article. This solves a debate in our family. - 8/26/2010   11:29:48 AM

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