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Are Fresh Vegetables Better Than Frozen?

Myth:Fresh fruits and vegetables are healthier for you than frozen ones.

Facts:The nutritional value of fresh fruits and vegetables is determined by the season, their availability in the marketplace and the proximity of the consumer to where the produce was harvested, according to Nancy Snyderman, the chief medical editor at NBC News.

“The closer you can get to fresh, the better. I’m a big believer in getting local produce,” says Snyderman. “But if you can’t do that, sometimes frozen is better than fresh.”

How so?

Often, fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested before they are ripe, and they haven’t had time to develop the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, says Kathy Glazer, a registered dietitian and the director of nutrition services for George Washington University’s Weight Management Program. That fresh produce is then frequently shipped far distances, she says, and exposed to heat and light, which deplete them of nutrients such as vitamin C and the B vitamins.

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are to be frozen, however, are picked when they are fully ripe and have developed all of their nutrients. The produce is blanched to remove bacteria and flash-frozen in facilities near the fields to lock in the nutrients, says Glazer. The faster the produce is frozen, the less likely it will lose its nutrients, says Snyderman.

Frozen produce also has another benefit: It’s edible for several months. Fresh fruits and vegetables often go bad after a week, says Snyderman.

Overall, Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, she says. It’s recommended that we eat nine to 11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, but most Americans eat only three.

“I wouldn’t get too picky whether they get fresh or frozen,” she says. “I’m thrilled if they get produce in any form.”

Rebecca Kern is a writer based in Washington, D.C.