Friday, February 5, 2010

Frozen Bombshell: Why Nutrition No Longer = Fresh

Whether your cupboards look like Dr. Oz has set up shop in your kitchen, or the puffy pastries and cheesy chips give away your nutritionally-challenged status, we all struggle with affordability and availability of healthy foods. How can we better integrate nutrition into our lives?

We must making healthy eating easier. This demand for year-round availability of nutritionally potent food at good prices seems to have caused a change in thinking about what constitutes healthy eating. For some, this change in thinking may not be news, but for others the shift could be seismic.

For decades, nutrition was synonymous with fresh food – it seemed to be the only way to enjoy the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables. It meant fresh from the tree, vine, plant or ground. It meant high nutrient content – the best thing you could put in your mouth.

Fresh is great, that's true. But here’s the snag: often what we think of as fresh – unfrozen, unpackaged fruits and vegetables available in the produce section of the supermarket – has been subject to weeks in delivery trucks. Travel and transport to deliver fresh food to your local market may mean weeks off of the vine, tree or plant. Furthermore, by the time you put your selection in your cart, bring it home, and consume it, several more days have gone by.

Not only are our choices limited to seasonal and productivity shifts in the produce aisle, but when you eat "fresh" are you really eating fresh?

A New Kind of Fresh

A 2009 State Indicator Report was recently released showing that no state in the nation is meeting objectives for recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables. Access and availability figure prominently on the list of challenges in reaching nutritional benchmarks. Taking advantage of frozen fruits and vegetables could serve as the key to overcoming these barriers.

It may go against our intuition, but thanks to advances in technology, frozen is just as good as fresh. In 1998, the Food & Drug Administration confirmed that frozen fruits and vegetables provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh. For example, fruit is quick frozen at the peak of ripeness (allowing it to be picked at the perfect time, not prior to its peak in efforts to prevent spoilage). This "individually quick frozen" method (known as IQF) allows for the fast preservation of taste and nutrition, and the fruit can remain frozen for over two years without losing flavor or nutritional value. (That means an IQF wild blueberry has all its antioxidant power locked in until its ready to be used!)

For those unfamiliar with the nutritional value and convenience that frozen fruits and veggies provide, it can seem like a whole new way to shop. The frozen food aisle can serve as an extension of the produce section, offering good, healthy food, season in and season out.

Toward a Healthier Budget

More and more, consumers are tuned into to nutritional value: we can't afford to make nutritional sacrifices, but at the same time, food budgets are tight. Interest in frozen fruits and veggies may also be driven by a concern about stretching budgets. Frozen means competitive prices and low waste – fruits and veggies can be purchased in bulk sizes, and portions are available in the freezer whenever they are needed.

The Bottom Line

If you are still waiting for summer to get a brief taste of healthy foods, it’s time to change your thinking. You need to make nutritionally potent fruits and vegetables a priority every day of the year. Nutrition is no longer synonymous with fresh: when it comes to getting your fruits and veggies, make frozen your secret nutritional weapon!

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