The US Department of Agriculture recommends adults consume 10 servings of produce daily, each serving being 1/2 cup in size. Many health experts agree with this goal, yet most Americans do not even eat half the suggested number of servings per day. Some use the excuse that fresh produce is too difficult to prepare, or that it spoils too quickly in the refrigerator, or that the cleaning and chopping and peeling take too much time in this pressured world.
The good news is that canned and frozen produce provide excellent nutritional value, are convenient, readily available and take little time to prepare. Vegetables and fruits that are destined to be processed are kept on their host plants or trees until they are at their peak of perfection. Once they are ripe they are picked, cleaned, and either frozen or canned immediately, preserving their nutritional value. Produce grown to be sold fresh in stores, is often harvested early, never achieving its full nutritional potential. Then it travels days until it reaches a warehouse, before it arrives in the produce department of local stores. During all that exposure to air, more nutritional value is lost.
While heat can reduce the levels of certain nutrients, it actually increases the availability of others, like corn’s lutein which protects our eyes, or the tomato’s lycopene which protects the prostate gland. If one rejects canned vegetables for their salt content, one can sometimes find reduced sodium options. If the consumer does not want sugar sweetened canned fruits, sugar free or reduced sugar versions can often be found. In both cases, the canned produce can be rinsed in a colander, significantly reducing the salt and sugar. Frozen fruits and vegetables, without sauces or seasoning are wonderful options. Steaming, roasting, or stir frying vegetables, along with creative seasoning, can make them a tasty addition to a meal.
So, the bottom line is that the convenience and benefits of eating canned or frozen produce make these products a wonderful tool for reaching our goal of optimal health.