By Fiona Breslin
Frozen fruits and vegetables may share a store freezer section with TV dinners and EGGO waffles, but they are a far cry nutritionally from those packaged food neighbors. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables are quite healthy. Because they have been “flash frozen,” they may retain more nutrients than some of the fresh produce that travels long distances to get to your store. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great addition to your cancer-fighting kitchen, especially during winter months when fresh local produce is limited.
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 freezer.
The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends consuming at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits daily. Since both can be bought and stored in your own freezer for use any time, without the threat of spoilage, they are great sources of cancer fighting vitamins and compounds.
Do not thaw frozen vegetables before cooking. They will lose taste and nutrients. Store bought frozen veggies and fruit can be a more cost-effective way of getting organic veggies into your diet. Check out Whole Food’s 365 brand, which doesn’t contain preservatives or added sugar.
When local produce is abundant, you can also try freezing it yourself. Choose super-fresh vegetables without any blemishes, wash, peel, and cut them to a handy size. Blanch them to kill any harmful bacteria as well as the enzymes that cause spoiling. Run cold water over the veggies to stop them cooking, pat them dry and bag them in portion size 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. Check out our ‘Bag and Freeze’ video to see how this is done.
You can substitute frozen veggies in any dish that calls for fresh (except for raw salads). You can steam, sauté, or lightly boil frozen veggies until they are al dente. But never microwave them, because this will zap away all the nutrients that freezing preserves. Steamed frozen vegetables such as mixed veg, peas and green beans work well with this Chopped Steamed Winter Vegetable Salad or our simple Steamed Green Beans.