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[box type=”default” size=”large”] University of Georgia study shatters belief that fresh food is better [/box]

MANILA — In what amounts to be an indictment of organic food advocates’ stand that fresh food has more nutritional value than frozen ones, a University of Georgia (UGA) study showed some frozen fruits and vegetables have higher nutritional value.

The study undertaken by Dr. Ronald Pegg, an associate professor at UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES), proved that generally, the nutritional value of many frozen fruits and vegetables is equal to that of their fresh counterparts.

Pegg said the amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and folates of some frozen fruits and vegetables are greater than that of fresh-stored produce but said nutrient degradation of fresh produce happens during storage.

His team looked into selected vitamin and mineral content of eight fruits and vegetables — blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, green beans, corn, spinach, cauliflower and green peas — and analyzed the nutrient values of the produce on the day they were purchased and after the produce had been stored in a household refrigerator for five days.

Pegg determined the nutritional content of the same set of fruits and vegetables that had been packaged after freezing.

“The vitamins and nutrients in fruits and vegetables degrade over time, and we found that frozen fruits and vegetables may offer more nutrition than fresh, when storage is taken into account,” Pegg said. “Fruits and vegetables are going to have a different nutrient profile after storage than they had when they were taken from the field … (These pieces of produce) are living things. They respire; they age and they break down over time. There are oxidative stresses, microbial stresses and enzymatic stresses, and we end up seeing the loss of nutrient value from these stresses.”

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“This particular study was designed from the point of view of the consumer, and it’s one of the first to take into account the way people buy and store produce,” Pegg said.

The study was undertaken in collaboration with the Frozen Food Foundation (FFF) to find out if the claim that frozen food has less vitamins would hold.

“Freezing is nature’s pause button,” Pegg told the UGA’s Media Newswirenews editor Merritt Melancon. “It helps maintain the nutritional value of fresh vegetables, even during storage.”

Moreover, Pegg argued that frozen vegetables maintain more of their nutritional value since they are blanched shortly after being taken from the farms.

This, he added, stops the enzymatic reactions that can break down many nutrients.

Pegg added that freezing also slows the enzymatic breakdown of unblanched fruits and decreases microbial breakdown.

Reacting to the study, Dan Nosowitz wrote in his article “Vegetables are sometimes more nutritious than fresh” for the April 20, 2017 issue of Modern Farmer  that “the study found few nutritional differences between all three storage methods, but there were some exceptions, and those exceptions tended to favor frozen and fresh over the fridge-stored produce. Green beans, for example, showed a 40 percent lower vitamin C content when fridge-stored, compared to frozen. Frozen corn showed much higher levels of beta-carotene than either fresh or fridge-stored. Frozen peas? 19 percent more folate than fridge-stored.”

However, Nosowitz added “there were some differences that didn’t favor the frozen products; frozen broccoli, for example, showed less folate content than fresh. But this study, along with others like it, serves to indicate that frozen produce is not necessarily less nutritious, despite its long storage times and packaging.”