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Fresh Veggies vs. Frozen and Canned Veggies: Which is Healthier?

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Author: Kathryn Steed

We all know that eating vegetables is an essential part of getting key nutrients and keeping our bodies performing at their highest levels. There are so many ways to obtain vegetables: canned, frozen, the produce aisle at a supermarket, farmer's market or even growing your own. So are all these ways of consuming vegetables equally healthy or should we try and avoid anything that's not fresh?

There is no doubt that growing your own vegetables is the most nutritious and arguably the tastiest way to eat veggies. With a vegetable garden, you are in control of how they are planted, cared for and harvested, which means that you can grow organic vegetables for much cheaper than buying them at the grocery store. Also, you have the option of planting a greater variety of vegetables. If you have yard space and some spare time, you should try starting a vegetable garden. It's a cheap and environmentally-friendly way to get the most out of your vegetables!

While many of us would love to be able plant and harvest our own produce, it's not always feasible. There are days when we are in a hurry and must quickly dump a can of green beans or frozen spinach into the microwave if vegetables are going to make it on the menu. Are canned and frozen vegetables less healthy than fresh vegetables? Well, there a lot of points to consider: nutrition, cost, shelf-life and taste.

Though not fresh, frozen and canned vegetables have their benefits. In 1998, the FDA confirmed that frozen vegetables are just as healthy (if not more so) than purchasing vegetables from the produce section at your local grocery store. Vegetables are packed with the most nutrients right after they are harvested. The longer the time between harvest and transportation to the grocery store shelf, the more the nutrient level decreases. Since frozen vegetables are picked, blanched and frozen within hours of harvest, they're processed when they are freshest and have the highest amount of nutrients. So don't worry about picking up bags of frozen peas and broccoli; they are still benefiting you and your family's health.

Are canned and frozen vegetables equally healthy? Usually not, although many people prefer their taste because of the added salt and preservatives. When purchasing canned vegetables, added salt is an additional concern, especially if you have or are predisposed to high blood pressure. There are usually reduced sodium or no salt added options, however. Canned veggies also tend to lose a lot of their nutrients during the preservation process, with the exception of tomatoes and pumpkin.

If you don't want to grow your own vegetable garden, the next best thing is to support a local farmer's market. Produce at a farmer's market is fresher than produce at the grocery store. It's also nice to be able to ask how the crop was grown (were pesticides used?) and support your local economy at the same time.

The way produce is prepared also affects the nutrient levels. For example, boiling vegetables in a pot of boiling water can cause vitamins and minerals to leach into the water. The healthiest way to prepare vegetables is to lightly steam them. Since Americans typically only eat about one-third of their daily serving of vegetables, any vegetables are better than none at all. While you should strive to get the most nutrient-packed vegetables on your plate, it's more important to strive to eat a full serving of vegetables each day, no matter where they come from.

About the author: Kathryn Steed is a writer and editor for, an ever-growing recipe sharing website. For more articles like this, or for a large collection of recipes, visit the site as

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