Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Don't give frozen produce the cold shoulder

During the depths of winter, the produce sections of most grocery stores once looked bleak. That's changed some, thanks to globalization and international trade. Still, the pickings may be slim. Now is a good time to see what the freezer section has to offer.

Frozen produce is a solid choice for a healthful diet. Fruits and vegetables are usually picked ripe and flash frozen. In addition to capturing their flavor, the freezing process seals in nutrients. In contrast, fresh fruits and vegetables that must be shipped long distances are usually picked before they are ripe. During the week or two they are being transported and sitting in the grocery store, enzymes slowly break down vitamins and phytonutrients.

The frozen food industry has come a long way since Clarence Birdseye devised a system in 1926 for quickly freezing fruits, vegetables, and meat. Today, you can get everything from old standards like frozen blueberries or chopped broccoli to newer additions like frozen turnip greens, gooseberries, and plantains. Frozen vegetables make an easy, nutritious addition to soups, stews, and casseroles. They can be eaten plain, gussied up as a side dish, or thawed and tossed into salads. Frozen fruit is terrific for making smoothies or pie, sweetening yogurt, and eating as a snack.

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