By Alisa Hrustic
Ever wonder when should you opt for fresh fruits and vegetables—or just go the convenient route and buy frozen?
You’re in luck: Both frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables retain their nutrients, according to a recent study from the University of Georgia.
Researchers analyzed the nutrient content of eight fruits and vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, peas, green beans, spinach, blueberries, and strawberries) at six different seasonal points throughout two years. They split the produce into three different groups: Fresh, fresh-stored (meaning it sat in the fridge for five days), and frozen.
In a majority of their comparisons, the researchers found no significant difference in the nutrient content—specifically vitamin C, provitamin A, and total folate—of the fruits and vegetables. When there were differences, frozen produce was actually more likely to retain its nutrients than fresh-stored, the researchers found.
That’s because fruits and vegetables produce enzymes that quickly lead to spoiling of nutrients. Freezing them puts that process on hold, which keeps all the nutrients packed tight until you’re ready to eat them, says Carolyn Brown, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist who is not affiliated with the study.
So it’s doesn’t really matter whether you prefer fresh or frozen, as long as you’re actually incorporating enough fruits and vegetables into your meals. Getting enough produce is one of the easiest way to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals that are crucial for your brain health, immune system, skin, muscles, and more, says Brown.
But nearly 90 percent of Americans don’t eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables daily, according to a 2013 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 80 percent of people don’t eat enough fruit, which is about 2 cups a day for most people.
When taste and texture really matter—say, on top of your oatmeal or as a salad topper—fresh fruit can be a better option, says Brown.
But if you’re on a budget and frequently find yourself flying out the door in the morning, frozen fruit and vegetables can be a huge time-saver.