Are Frozen Berries Healthier Than Fresh?

In addition to being a delicious part of any diet, berries have long been considered super foods that are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants. Berries are often available both frozen and fresh, but few consumers realize that frozen berries are often the healthier choice. Many people erroneously believe that “fresh is best”, but when it comes to berries, the frozen varieties have a higher concentration of nutritional elements, and are often spared from the large amounts of pesticides that are used on fresh berries found in a supermarket.

Numerous studies have found that frozen berries contain the same nutritional elements as fresh berries that have just been harvested. However, this does not mean that “fresh” berries found in the produce section of a grocery store are a better choice than frozen berries. Unlike the berries cited in these studies, the fresh berries that are readily available to consumers when in season are already days past harvest by the time they arrive at the market, since most berries endure several days of travel to make it to their final destination. As each day passes, the berries slowly lose the nutrients that were so concentrated when they were picked. In comparison, frozen berries are almost always flash frozen the same day that they are harvested, preserving the natural nutrients and antioxidants that are present at the peak of freshness. According to studies conducted by John Hopkins University, the process of freezing just harvested berries results in berries that maintain their optimal nutrition levels for months at a time, making it possible to easily incorporate these super foods into a diet just by opening the freezer.

Like many crops, commercially grown berries are often exposed to a number of pesticides. In most cases, commercial farms specialize in either growing berries that will be sold fresh or sold frozen. In some instances, farms will grow both, but the crops are designated and grown separately from each other. Berries that are grown with the intention of being frozen are exposed to a significantly lower amount of pesticides than their counterparts that are sent to the grocery store fresh. The reason for this is that fresh berries must maintain a good appearance for days, or even a week or more, as they are transported and then sold to consumers. This requires large amounts of pesticides and sprays to be administered before and after harvest. Thus, the berries that end up frozen have much lower levels of pesticide and crop spray exposure and residue. To display this dramatic difference between fresh and frozen we have taken data from the USDA pesticide testing program. The USDA data shows 52 different pesticide residues on a fresh blueberry vs. only 21 on a frozen blueberry. Although we at Northwest Wild Foods advocate eating wild or organic berries as much as possible, it’s clear when not available, frozen berries are the best choice for maintaining optimal health.

Frozen berries are available year round, and are usually less expensive than their “fresh” counterparts. Combine that with the fact that frozen berries contain the same nutrients as freshly harvested berries, and maintain those nutrients for months or years while being stored in the freezer, and it is easy to see why purchasing frozen berries is a good idea.

Sources

Ann Marie Connor , James J. Luby , James F. Hancock , Steven Berkheimer , and Eric J. Hanson, “Changes In Fruit Antioxidant Activity Among Blueberry Cultivars During Cold-Temperature Storage,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 893-898, 2002.

Virachnee Lohachoompol, George Srzednicki, and John Craske, “The Change of Total Anthocyanins in Blueberries and Their Antioxidant Effect After Drying and Freezing,” Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, vol. 2004, no. 5, pp. 248-252, 2004.

Mariana-Atena Poiana ,Diana Moigradean, Diana Raba, Liana-Maria Alda and Mirela Popa, “The Effect of Long-Term Frozen Storage on the Nutraceutical Compounds, Antioxidant Properties and Color Indices of Different Kinds of Berries,” Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, vol.8, no. 1, pp. 54-58, 2010.