February 3, 2015 in Food Economics, General, Health Claims, Nutrition, Shelf Life, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

Truly, it’s a rare occasion at my home, for the temperatures to be in the 50s and 60s during February – I have plans to breath in some of the warmer air during the next 10 days. I’ve lived in the mountain west for enough years (15) to realize that winter is not over, based on the less than frozen air that we are supposed to be enjoying during the next 10 days. When people learn that I left sunny southern California to live in the mountain west, they often ask how I enjoy it. I always answer honestly; I enjoy so many things about the beautiful mountain west, but have never learned to love cold air. Having said that, however, we know that cold air is good for many things, among them are:

  • It makes the world white and beautiful, especially for the iconic Christmas scenes and Disney feature movies.
  • It makes skiing possible. Although many are complaining right now with the 50 degree days hanging around in the valleys during the first days of February. Even some of the ski resorts have melting during the days.
  • It allows spring to be a glorious, much-awaited time of year for those, like me, who can barely await the first crocus, pushing up its yellow, purple or lavender head.
  • And fourth, it is one of the ways that we can avoid malnutrition for lack of fruits and vegetables, when nothing is growing in the frozen tundra (as I call it.) Of course now days, fresh fruits and vegetables are transported into these states during winter, but frozen foods protect us from the historic problem of wintering over without fresh produce.

The study of science by its very nature brings change to us. But for the issue of frozen fruits and vegetables, the new studies and resulting information is still that frozen produce is at least as nutritious as fresh; and in some cases, certain nutrients are better preserved in frozen fruits and vegetables than in fresh produce after it waits to be cooked a few days in our home refrigerators. One study lead by Ronald Pegg at the University of Georgia, found that frozen produce faired much better than fresh. Pegg said:

“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.”

Unfortunately, we know first hand about the enzymes stressing the produce, the oxidative stresses and the microbial reactions. We only have to look in the fridge and see the mold growing on the cucumber, the oranges and grapefruits shriveling up, and the spinach getting slimy. The fact is that freezing produce can be a real boon to both nutrition and to the grocery budget.

If you decide to freeze some of your surplus fresh vegetables, be sure to look up which ones need to be blanched to denature the enzymes – which stops the enzymatic action on the vegetable. You can read on line about just about any kind of produce and how to freeze it.

Although I’m concentrating on produce today, I should mention that freezing is a very helpful way to preserve nuts, peanuts (and other legumes); whole grain flour and, of course, many other foods. If you like shopping as much as I do (NOT), then freezing can save trips to the market.

Be aware in the frozen food aisle, just as you must be in the entire market. Certainly, there are a huge number of highly processed frozen foods that are high in calories, fat, sodium and low in nutrients. Freezing pizza, corn dogs, and fettuccine Alfredo does not make them a healthy choice. Do take advantage of the convenience of frozen vegetables, especially those without sauces; they’re a great bargain in both time (no cleaning, chopping and less cooking) and money savings. Also, being able to get first quality fruits in the winter is another benefit.

During the past year, I’ve added a new staple to our freezer – mangos. The chunks of frozen mango can be used in so many different ways. The way I most commonly use it is as a ‘relish’ for fish. I cut the chunks in four pieces (very easy) and serve completely bare of anything – it is really a nice (and nourishing) addition to our meal. Frozen berries are already a stock item in our freezer; most commonly used to top our whole-wheat pancakes or our whole-grain oatmeal or rolled wheat breakfasts.

As much as I don’t care for frozen air, I must say that I don’t really know how I’d get along without frozen foods.