Berries: Fresh or Frozen?

If you read yesterday’s post about blackberries vs. blueberries, you learned that they are both excellent super-fruits that have outstanding health benefits. But I got a good question – are frozen just as good as fresh?

It’s a great question, because frozen fruit is so convenient and also less expensive. Frozen blueberries and cranberries are a regular item on my grocery list, because we use them in smoothies and hot cereal and yogurt and pancakes. Fresh berries are sometimes hard to come by in the middle of winter, and if you’re someone who relies on blueberries or cranberries or blackberries for your daily dose of antioxidants, frozen is your only option.

So what does freezing do to the nutrient value of a berry?

This depends on when the berry was frozen. Obviously, if you’re at a berry farm picking berries, it will have the maximum amount of nutrients if you pop it into your mouth right there on the spot. Since berries (and all fruits and veggies) begin to lose nutrients immediately after being picked, they will retain most of their nutrients if frozen right away. A berry frozen right after picking will have more nutrients than a berry that was picked somewhere across the country and then packaged, transported by truck, stocked in your grocery store, and eventually ended up in your refrigerator. The berries will be losing nutrients every step of the way, and by the time they make it to your house, they may only have a few days of life left.

Freezing preserves the nutrients, and the more quickly the fruit is frozen, the better. Freezing inhibits growth of microorganisms and prevents enzymes in the fruit from activating. This is what helps to preserve essential vitamins and nutrients.

Berries that are frozen whole (sometimes you find frozen sliced strawberries or frozen pureed berries) are best because they retain more of the nutrients. Anytime you work with the berries (cutting, removing stems) prior to freezing, you risk nutrient loss, particularly vitamin C loss.

One thing to watch out for when choosing frozen berries: make sure they are unsweetened. Many times frozen fruit will have sugar added and when you thaw the fruit, it will be sitting in a thick, sugary syrup (gross). This not only destroys nutrients, but it provides many unnecessary sugars to your body. Until you find a brand you can trust, I’d read every label to make sure the only ingredient is the fruit itself.

Frozen berries are wonderful for so many things. When berries are not in season, I recommend frozen berries because they are much less expensive and probably have more nutrients than the fresh ones in the grocery store. One brand I really like is Stahlbush Island Farms. It’s a farm in Oregon that is 100% natural and certified sustainable. But when berries are in season, there’s nothing like fresh berries for breakfast or any time of day, for that matter. Depending on where you live, I recommend trying to plant your own berries too. One of my great childhood memories was picking the raspberries from the bush in our backyard and immediately using them on our cereal or ice cream.

Below is a photo of our little raspberry bush in Denver. It looks healthy to me and I hope we get fruit eventually!

Now I'm off to make breakfast. Ed's request? Blueberry pancakes!


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