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Is Fresh, Frozen or Canned Produce Healthier?

Living in Canada makes buying fresh local produce challenging. Since fresh produce can sometimes be limited or expensive, especially during the winter months, we tend to go for frozen or canned fruits and vegetables over fresh. We know that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way of getting different vitamins and minerals into our diets, but is buying fresh fruits and vegetables better than buying frozen and canned varieties?

The nutritional content of fruits and vegetables depends on many different factors:

  • seasonality
  • availability
  • region in which it is grown
  • ripeness at time of harvesting
  • shipping time
  • exposure to heat, air and light

Typically, the nutritional content of fresh produce is most affected by a long shipping time. Since many foods have to be imported during the winter, they’re still not ripe when they’re picked. On the other hand, frozen and canned produce is affected by processing which involves blanching foods (boiling/steaming) prior to packaging. Blanching is known to decrease levels of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and B vitamins.

Regardless of the season, every balanced diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Optimize the nutrients in your diet by choosing from fresh local produce and supplementing with frozen and canned choices.

Tips for Buying Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

  • Ideally, pick fresh local foods when they are in season
  • Choose brightly coloured produce with a strong aroma, which is a sure sign of ripeness.
  • Avoid produce that is bruised, soft and moldy, signs that it may be rotting.

Tips for Buying Frozen Produce

  • Freezing produce makes it available year-round, when foods that aren’t in season and can be enjoyed.
  • Go for produce that’s packaged without additional sauces, sugar or salt.
  • Avoid bags where the items inside feel soft, or if the bag is sweating; the food has probably defrosted, which can impact the flavour of the produce.

Tips for Buying Canned Produce

  • Choose foods packed in water or natural juices for a healthier option.
  • Check labels. Prepackaged items will have a nutrition facts panel. Try to choose foods that contain higher than 15% Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C and vitamin A, and less than 5% DV of sodium.
  • Rinse the syrup and salt off of canned items, including beans, corn, etc.
  • Remember to check expiry dates to ensure the quality and safety of your canned produce.
  • Try your best to select products that are labeled “BPA-free”. Studies have shown that BPA (Bisphenol A), an artificial chemical found in cans, can be absorbed by the food, and has the potential to negatively impact your weight loss results.

Always keep your favourite fruits and veggies stocked, so you can maintain a healthy daily intake and give your body the nourishment it deserves!

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