The thought that fresh fruits and vegetables are always better than frozen or canned is a myth.
Without a doubt, vegetables and fruits straight from your home garden or local farmer’s market are great. Your local grocer provides a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The less time spent traveling from the field or garden to your plate, the more nutritious the produce. Many of us are not lucky enough to have fresh produce available year round.
On the other hand, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are often processed immediately after they are harvested, resulting in little or no loss in nutrient value, assuming they are stored correctly and eaten during their recommended shelf life. One disadvantage to canned fruits and vegetables is that many contain added sugar and salt. For example, a ½-cup serving of canned vegetables may contain anywhere between 250-500 mg of sodium. If you consume 2.5 cups or more of canned vegetables a day, you can easily meet or surpass the recommended intake of sodium. The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls for a decrease in the daily intake of sodium from 2,300 mg (approximately one teaspoon of table salt) to 1,500 mg (about 2/3 teaspoon of table salt). To avoid too much sodium from canned vegetables, choose the no-salt variety and make sure to read the labels before buying. Fruits packed in their own juices are best to limit sugar from heavy packing syrups.
Keep cooking to a minimum to maintain as much nutrient content as possible in your produce. Generally, it is best to steam or microwave veggies for short periods. Use lower temperatures and cook with small amounts of water to retain water-soluble vitamins.
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other plant chemicals (phytochemicals), which may reduce the risk for many chronic diseases. Another benefit is that fruits and vegetables can help with weight maintenance as they can help you to feel full.
The bottom line is that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is encouraged for good health. Buy and use a combination of fresh, frozen, and canned to ensure that you have produce readily available, and remember to eat fresh produce soon after purchasing.
Depending on age, gender, and activity level, the daily adult recommendations from the USDA MyPyramid are about 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables. To learn more about fruits and vegetables, your recommended servings, and nutritional values, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.