One of the practical reasons for buying fruits and vegetables frozen is they're seasonal and often need to be imported from other countries. "In order for berries to be ripe by the time they get to us, they are often picked in their pre-ripe form and they further lose some of their nutrients during their long travel to your grocery store," says Cassandra Suarez, MS, RDN, CPT of Boston, Massachusetts. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are a better value frozen when out of season because they begin to lose their nutrients moments after being picked. Check out these delicious breakfast smoothie recipes.
We have good intentions when we buy a big bag of carrots but as the week wanes on and our days are rushed, we find ourselves eating take-out or microwaving frozen dinners instead of eating the carrots. "Frozen carrots are an excellent option because of the high levels of beta carotene and antioxidants have been locked into the vegetable through the freezing process, ensuring that it's powerful health benefits like improved vision, beautiful skin, cancer prevention, and anti-aging don't disappear," says Suarez.
Mangoes tend to be over-ripe or under-ripe in the store. Plus mangoes are a bit time consuming and messy when it comes to peeling and slicing them. "Frozen mango is always a staple in my freezer," says Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD, of Street Smart Nutrition. A bag of frozen mango has more potential uses than just making a smoothie. Harbstreet thaws her frozen mango and uses it in parfaits, on salads, and in mixed grains for a tropical twist.
Frozen peas are an affordable and convenient option to get an additional serving of our daily veggie requirement. "Green peas can easily be added to soups, stews, or salads or served as a simple side dish," says Harbstreet. Peas also happen to be one of the healthiest veggies you can eat.
Fresh spinach is great to eat when you plan to eat it raw, but frozen spinach may be better in recipes that require cooking. "If you're adding spinach to a sauce, soup, stew, or casserole, consider the frozen option," says Harbstreet. Fresh spinach loses a significant amount of volume when it cooks down and some nutrients are lost due to leaching. Frozen spinach retains a lot of water, so before adding it to a recipe, thaw it in a mesh strainer and run it under warm water. Break apart the icy chunks with your fingers. Once it is thawed, grab a handful of spinach and squeeze the water out, over the strainer. Most recipes don't call for the spinach to be completely dry, unless you are adding it to a creamy pasta dish or filling a pastry.
When you crave the nutty and sweet flavors of fall but don't have the time to peel and chop through the hard shell, Rebecca Lewis, MS, RD, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh, suggests pulling out a bag of butternut squash. Not only is super convenient, it boasts carotenoids, which can help protect against heart disease and high levels of beta-carotene, which fights against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration. If that's not enough good to thaw, how about 10 percent of recommended daily intake (RDI)) of vitamin C, 5 percent of iron, and 9 percent of protein? (These could be signs you have a nutrient deficiency.)
A favorite staple of summer, corn on the cob is shuck worthy at many dinner tables because it's tasty, easy to prepare, and fun to eat. But alas, corn has a short growing season and we're left with two options: canned or frozen. "Instead of buying in the can, which is often loaded with salt infused water, opt to buy frozen," says Lewis. The kernels will be frozen at the peak of season and easy to boil or microwave when you need it.
Who doesn't savor a juicy and sweet peach in the summer? Like corn, this summer favorite has a very short season of just two months. Canned peaches, even when they're not soaking in a bath of sugary liquid just don't taste that great. Lewis says to head to the freezer section and pick up frozen peaches with no-added sugar. They are yummy to eat by themselves but if you thaw them and stir into a creamy bowl of oatmeal, peaches can make a winter morning less dreary. Use thawed peaches for pancake and waffle toppers, or stir in yogurt. They're great to use in baking cobblers and pies too. Get more hacks for freezing and defrosting.
Edamame is actually a soy bean, but edamame sounds much cooler. In fact, it's so cool, that the freezer section is where you will typically find it. Edamame has a great nutrition profile. One cup boasts 6 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein, and 19 percent RDI of vitamin C, 14 percent RDI of iron and 7 percent RDI of calcium. Eat it plain or toss it in a quinoa salad with diced green onion.
Broccoli is available year-round but unless it's locally grown, it could lose some nutrients. "Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, like broccoli tend to lose this vitamin during transportation, extended shelf time, and exposure to lots of heat and light," says Suarez. Broccoli could be a week old before it lands on the produce shelf, but when it's frozen, it maintains vitamins and antioxidants. Frozen broccoli is so versatile too: Add defrosted broccoli to a frittata, stir frozen broccoli in pasta sauce, thaw it for pizza topping, or make soup. Broccoli is also a powerful food for lowering high blood pressure.