What are the best fruits and vegetables to buy frozen?
Here are the cold, hard facts: some fruits and vegetables can lose their flavour and nutrients when frozen, but others practically thrive on ice. We’ve assembled a list of the latter, with an assist from Dr Gene Lester, national programme leader of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. As you shop, check the packaging for a choice grade rating – you want the best quality. Then, once you open your produce, listen to Lester and store any unused amount in a freezer bag, rolling up the bag to squeeze out extra air.
Tear open a bag of frozen kernels and you’ll find what canned ones lack: flavour. Plus, the blanching that corn undergoes prior to freezing can boost levels of lutein and zeaxanthin – carotenoids that fight vision loss – by as much as 118% say scientists in India. For best quality, consume within six months.
Frozen peas have nearly as much taste and texture as the just-shelled stuff. And according to a study in the Journal of Food Science, freezing peas increases their antioxidant activity. Go ahead and buy the jumbo bag: half a cup contains 13% of your daily vitamin C needs, and a UC Davis research review found that peas lose only a tenth of their total C after a full year in the freezer.
Milk, schmilk: a study from Poland found that stone-cold spinach contains more calcium than the fresh kind (and more than milk). Steam this green to break down its cell walls and make its antioxidants more accessible, say scientists in Italy. But mind the calendar: spinach’s folates, which may fight heart disease, drop by 43% between the third and sixth month of frozen storage, a Polish study found.
Bring this superfood to subzero and you won’t lose its anthocyanins – flavonoids that help prevent heart disease and cancer, according to Romanian research. You can let frozen blueberries thaw at room temperature, but a North Carolina State University study found that if you instead microwave them for one minute, those anthocyanin levels rise. Consume them within four months.
Deep-chilled cherries hang on to more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than the canned kind, a study in the Journal of Food Science reports. The downside: if you wait too long to drop them into a smoothie or a bowl of yoghurt, they’ll be the pits nutritionally. A UC Davis study review found that 50% of the polyphenols in frozen cherries degrade after six months, but only 25% do by the three-month mark