So… you’re at the supermarket, filling your basket with lots of colourful, fresh vegetables from the produce aisle. You feel confident that you’ll be providing your baby with the very BEST nutrition.
But are those ‘fresh’ vegetables really as nutrient-rich as they should be? Are they even ‘fresh’ at all?
If the vegetables you’re buying are locally grown and in season, the chances are that they’re fresh – and therefore packed with nutrients!
Very often, however, this isn’t the case.
Vegetables that are grown to be transported long distances are usually picked before they are fully ripe. This means that they have not had enough time for their vitamin and mineral content to completely develop. Although the vegetables may proceed to ripeness once picked, they will never be as nutritious as they would have been had they been allowed to ripen fully.
But that’s just part of the problem.
Even after shipping (during which time they may have been exposed to heat), ‘fresh’ vegetables then sit on the shelves of the supermarket, fully exposed to light.
And the fact is that both heat and light cause the nutritional value of fresh vegetables to deteriorate.
Making baby food with frozen vegetables and fruits feels a bit like cheating, doesn’t it? All the washing, peeling and chopping is done for you – and surely frozen produce can’t be particularly nutritious?
Yet, in some circumstances, it may be better than fresh!
The premises used for freezing vegetables are often located in or near to vegetable production areas. This means that the produce can be frozen within just hours of being picked – when their nutritional value is optimal.
Before freezing, the vegetables are blanched. This means that they are slightly cooked – a process necessary to stop them turning brown during freezing. This does cause some loss of vitamin C, vitamin B1 and folate – but, once the produce is frozen, no further loss of vitamins or minerals occurs. Additionally, the entire process of blanching, freezing and then cooking vegetables is considered to cause a similar vitamin loss as the normal loss associated with cooking ‘fresh’ vegetables.
Remember, too, that ‘fresh’ vegetables begin to deteriorate in nutritional value as soon as they are picked. With green vegetables, for example, the vitamin C content is generally higher in the frozen variety – it tends to deplete more rapidly from fresh green vegetables as they sit on supermarket shelves.
And freezing particularly benefits vegetables containing carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A). This is because the vegetables are protected from light… and light actually destroys carotene.
Another point to consider is that frozen veggies these days tend to be ‘flash frozen’ – meaning that they are frozen quickly, helping to retain their nutrients.
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, many fresh vegetables stored in the refrigerator or pantry for more than three days have lost enough of their vitamins and minerals to make frozen vegetables MORE nutritious!
There have also been reports in the news suggesting that fresh vegetables, bought out of season, may be higher in potentially harmful nitrates.
Please note: frozen fruits and vegetables may not be suitable for babies with G6PD Deficiency – please see this page for more information.