Are canned vegetables fresh and healthy?
What do you prefer when it comes to eating vegetables? Are you easygoing and do you open a jar or can during the week, or do you prefer to cut fresh vegetables with every meal? Apart from the question of whether you really spend more time doing this, there is another important aspect that influences the choice you make. That is whether fresh vegetables are healthier than canned or frozen vegetables.
How fresh is fresh?
We call it fresh vegetables, but how fresh is fresh, really? And who says that vegetables from a can, jar or from the freezer bag are not just as fresh? Ask any passerby what their preference is, and you will of course always get different answers. Some people just find it very easy to eat vegetables from a jar or can. Because they only cook for themselves, for example, or because they don't want to spend time cutting vegetables themselves. The cooking time could also take longer. For example, you can easily heat vegetables from a jar in the microwave.
But opponents will say that fresh vegetables are better. More vitamins and no added unclear E numbers.
The process from the field to the table
If you have your own vegetable garden, you can be sure that your green bean or lettuce comes very fresh from the land. And you don't know that with the vegetables you buy in the supermarket. Because you can tell from a head of lettuce that it has wilted, but the green beans show nothing of the journey they already had before they ended up in the vegetable department. And you can no longer see that when it is behind glass, let alone when it's in a can, where you have to rely on the information on the label. With seasonal vegetables, you can assume that a day's harvest will be in the supermarket within 48 hours. You could say that's pretty fast.
But fresh is a relative term. According to the dictionary, the definition of fresh is "not old." And so you don't get much with that. There is therefore no provision for food that determines how 'fresh' fresh actually is.
Not all fruit and vegetables make it to appear in the supermarket within 48 hours of the field. This mainly applies to products that have to come from other countries. Simply because it cannot grow in its own country, or because it is not the season that it can be harvested in its own country. And then you have to deal with transport that takes time. As a result, it may happen that the vegetable has already been on the road for a few weeks, on the boat. And yet it is available in the supermarket as a 'fresh vegetable'.
For canned or jarred vegetables, the situation is somewhat different. The vegetables of the season are processed in it. So it is possible to cut and cook the red cabbage immediately after harvest, so that it is also in a pot or can within 5 hours. It can't get any fresher than that. And that also applies to the vegetables that end up in the freezer bag. If the seasonal vegetables are no longer available, production is simply stopped and another type of vegetable is next in line.
Nutritional value and added ingredients
What should you actually choose? For the fresh vegetables that can even be six months old before you weigh them in the supermarket to prepare? And are there still plasticizers in the cans that make it unhealthy to eat? Fortunately, there are strict rules in this area. The cans are completely safe and do not affect the quality of the contents. So make your choice for a packaging or a degree of freshness that appeals to you the most. You can assume the following:
Vegetables, especially if they are not seasonal vegetables, can be a few weeks old before they reach the supermarket due to the time it takes to harvest, transport and store them. So freshness is relative. And due to cooling down, the quality can also deteriorate, which is sometimes visible and sometimes not. During the cooking process, it is also inevitable that nutritional value is lost. So make sure that you never cook vegetables 'to porridge', but preferably keep them as crunchy as possible. The vitamin loss of fresh vegetables in the process from harvest to consumption is 10-30%, depending on the duration of transport and storage, the climate during the process and the species.
- Frozen vegetables
The vegetables that end up in the freezer bags are blanched and cooled immediately after entering the factory. Then it is immediately frozen. There is also a loss of vitamins in this process, about 20%.
- From a jar and from a can
The process of canning vegetables or processing them into a product in a jar also causes vitamin loss. Due to the enormous heating, there may be a little more loss than if you would cook them yourself. Think about 30% vitamin loss during the cooking process in the cannery.
What is the best choice now
Should you decide to just eat raw vegetables based on the information above? Then you know for sure that no active processes influence the vitamin content in the vegetables. However, that is not the solution either. Many vegetables, such as carrots, need some form of heating to ensure that your body can actually absorb the vitamins. So cooked carrots, with 10-30% vitamin loss, are still healthier than uncooked carrots.
Based on these percentages you can actually conclude that it does not matter much for the nutritional value whether you choose fresh from the vegetable department, or fresh from a jar, can or frozen. It's more about your own preference. Are you short on time? Then you can safely heat up a jar of vegetables. But if you don't like that, because a little too much vinegar or sugar has been added, then you choose the freezer bag. By the way, the added ingredients to the jar or can have nothing to do with extending the shelf life. They are also not intended as preservatives. It is purely because research shows that a lot of consumers simply like that taste.
If you do not belong to that group and prefer a crunchy bite, it is of course always worth a visit to the fresh department of the supermarket. Or buy it at the local market, because nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction of a meal that you have completely prepared yourself with home-cut vegetables.
Source: Keuringdienst van waarde KRO/NCRV