Frozen fruits and vegetables may share the store freezer section with TV dinners and frozen waffles, but they are nutritionally a far cry from those packaged food neighbors. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables are quite nutritious. Because they have been “flash frozen,” they often retain more nutrients than some of the fresh produce that travels long distances to get to your store.
The process of flash-freezing takes freshly harvested produce and exposes them to temperatures well below water’s freezing point. This causes the moisture in the vegetables to quickly freeze without damage, locking in freshness, nutrients, and taste. Since fresh vegetables and fruits start to lose nutritional value as soon as they are harvested, frozen varieties, which are processed at the peak of their ripeness, keep their cancer-fighting nutrients intact from the farm to the freezer.
The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends consuming at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits daily. Since both frozen fruits and vegetables can be bought and stored in your freezer for use at any time, without the threat of spoilage, they are great sources of cancer-fighting vitamins and compounds.
Tips for freezing vegetables
Do not thaw frozen vegetables before cooking as they will lose a good amount of their flavor and nutrients.
When local produce is abundant, you can also freeze it yourself. Choose super-fresh vegetables without any blemishes, and then once home, wash, peel, and cut them to a handy size. Blanch them to kill any harmful bacteria as well as the enzymes that cause spoiling. After running cold water over the blanched veggies, pat them dry and bag them in freezer bags. Leave room at the top of each bag for the vegetables to expand in the freezer and take out as much air as possible from the bag to prevent freezer burn.
You can substitute frozen veggies in any dish that calls for fresh (except for raw salads). You can saute, lightly boil, or steam frozen veggies until they are al dente, but never microwave them — this will zap away all the nutrients that freezing preserves.