Vegetables: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned?

Fruits and vegetables are major sources of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. They benefit patients with gallbladder and digestive issues and anyone who wants to stay healthy. And as I have discussed before, going organic really has its benefits.

Fresh and organic produce is:

  • Pesticide-free
  • Higher in nutrients
  • Antibiotic and synthetic hormone-free
  • Non-GMO
  • Environment-friendly

Unfortunately, not all of us have access to farmer’s markets. Depending on our storage and pantry conditions, produce can be exposed to light, oxygen, humidity, and temperature, which may affect its safety and quality. So to serve fruits and vegetables daily without the risk of food going bad, many households resort to purchasing frozen, jarred, or canned produce. But are these options still as nutritious?

Nutritional Value

A 2014 study compared the nutritional merits of eight common vegetables and ten common fruits across multiple packing options. Based on their comparison, fresh and frozen produce have a negligible difference in terms of nutritional value.

In the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are encouraged to increase healthy food consumption, especially in low-income families or those who cannot make regular grocery trips.

Unfortunately, some canned fruits and vegetables have fewer nutrients than fresh ones. I say some because nutrient retention varies depending on the process, product, and brand. It is noteworthy, however, that the decrease in nutritional value is equal to or comparable to the nutrition lost during the long storage or freezing period of fresh organic produce.

So if you must choose between eating fast food or canned fruits and veggies, canned produce is still the better choice.

But what should we look for when buying canned goods?

  1. Look for the ‘reduced sodium’ or ‘no salt added’ label
  2. For fruits, it is preferred to be canned or jarred in water to keep them fresh and juicy without the added sugar.
  3. If fruits canned or jarred in water are unavailable, fruit ‘packed in its own juices’ is still a better choice than syrup.
  4. Avoid fruits and vegetables canned or jarred with artificial colors.
  5. Avoid cans with dents, bulges, or leaks, as this may be a sign of bacterial contamination, which may cause sickness.

Whether consuming fresh, frozen, or canned produce, we mustn’t cook them for as long as we do meat. Studies show that when fruits or vegetables are overcooked, it no longer matters how we got them. We lose not only significant nutrients but more than 50% of their water-soluble antioxidant properties.

Potatoes, beans, and eggplant are some of the vegetables that are preferable when served thoroughly cooked, but for the rest, blanching, steaming, air-frying, or gently roasting your veggies will usually suffice.


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F.T. Vergara-Balderas (2016) Canning: Process of Canning. Encyclopedia of Food and Health, Academic Press, Pages 628-632. 

Hunter, K. J., & Fletcher, J. M. (2002). The antioxidant activity and composition of fresh, frozen, jarred and canned vegetables. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, 3(4), 399-406.

Lopez, A. (1987). A complete course in canning and related processes (No. 664.0282 C737c). CTI Publications,.

Miller, S. R., & Knudson, W. A. (2014). Nutrition and cost comparisons of select canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 430-437.