When fresh varieties are unavailable, consumers may find themselves wondering which would be the better alternative... canned or frozen.
"Nutritionally, there's not much difference between fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables," said Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist.
Some fruits may, however, be canned in a sugar-syrup and some vegetables are canned with extra salt, said Blakeslee, who advised looking at fruit labels that say canned in `light syrup' or "in its own juice" and for vegetables that are canned with "no added salt."
Rinsing canned fruits and vegetables under cold water will reduce the sugar and salt content, she said.
The flavor and texture of both canned and frozen foods will differ from fresh fruits and vegetables, Blakeslee said. Fresh fruits and vegetables are likely to be more crisp and juicy and canned ones may have a "cooked" taste because they are heat treated during the canning process. Fruits and vegetables are canned shortly after harvest for peak quality.
Canned fruits and vegetables typically have a longer shelf life than frozen fruits and vegetables, which should be used within six months of purchase.
"Freezing doesn't preserve food forever, it just slows down changes in color, texture and flavor," Blakeslee said.
Freezing causes ice crystals to form on both the surface and the inside of food. The crystals can break down the food's texture. Once thawed, the food will have a softer texture and the natural juices will seep out. The freeze/thaw cycle in the freezer will also affect the amount of ice crystal formation.
"All three (fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables) provide good nutrition and each has a place in our diets," Blakeslee said.
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