Did you think fresh vegetables were always the healthiest?
Vegetables together with fruit are the body’s main source of vitamins and minerals.
But are you one of those who thought fresh vegetables were the healthiest?
There are actually few vegetables that are as healthy as factory-frozen. At least this time of the year.
Continues to Live After Harvesting
– Vegetables are living material that continues to relieve itself after harvesting. How much they lose weight in nutritional value depends on a number of factors, such as storage conditions and how long it takes from farm to table, says Pernille Baardseth, Nutrition Physiologist at the Nofima Food Research Institute..
In winter and spring, Norway naturally imports most of its fresh vegetables, and imports mean, among other things, longer travel and storage under varying conditions.
– By contrast, factory-frozen vegetables are harvested at the right maturity, heat-treated and frozen within 24 hours. Then the nutrients are retained, even though the vegetables have a long shelf life, says Baardseth.
If there is a short time from the vegetables harvested to the eater, fresh vegetables in the summer have the most nutrients.
But in winter and spring it is healthier to eat them frozen.
Peas are not sold fresh
So much is 150 calories
The difference between the vegetables in fresh and frozen conditions varies.
– The durability of vegetables is dependent on several things. Vegetable type, maturity, storage conditions, processing and packaging affect the durability of the vegetables. And there’s a big difference from vegetable to vegetable, says Baardseth.
The greatest difference between fresh and frozen vegetables is found in green beans and peas.
– Peas and beans have high enzyme activity, which causes them to deteriorate significantly shortly after being picked, explains the food scientist.
Fresh beans are imported to Norway in winter, but then they are transported far and have lost nutritional value.
– Beans have a total of 30 percent nutritional loss during the first 24 hours after harvesting. Peas are not sold fresh in Norway either summer or winter, says Baardseth.
Proper storage for vegetables is important also in your own kitchen.
Findus, one of Norway’s largest frozen vegetables suppliers, estimates that over 75% of their vegetable raw materials are Norwegian.
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– In Norway we have a short growing season, and it is therefore difficult to grow all kinds of vegetables in Norway, says CEO of Findus, Atle Farmen.
Broccoli is one of the vegetables that must be imported.
– Broccoli for industrial production, it is not possible to grow as a raw material in Norway because of the climate here, and labor costs associated with cutting of bouquets by hand. We buy the raw material from carefully selected suppliers and require it to be frozen within 24 hours, explains Farmen.
Eldorado, another supplier of vegetables to Norwegian freezers, imports broccoli from Spain.
– It is blanched and frozen there, says Ingrid Solberg Gundersen, communications adviser at NorgesGruppen ASA.
Vapor versus cooking
How well nutrients in frozen vegetables are preserved depends, among other things, on processing before the vegetables reach the freezer.
All vegetables get lost before freezing. This means that they are given a quick heat treatment and make the taste, nutrients, color and texture better preserved..
Eldorado is washing and blanching vegetables in water before freezing. Findus has recently started to steam the vegetables rather than boil them before the vegetables are frozen.
– Steam blasting minimizes the leaching of soluble nutrients in the vegetables. As a result, the vegetables retain more of their natural sugar content, which in turn ensures that both taste, color, consistency and nutritional content are better served, says Atle Farmen in Findus.
Steam home too
At home, too, it is a good idea to steam the vegetables rather than boil them.
– When you cut vegetables and boil them, some nutrients will disappear into the water. Damping and woking are best for preserving the most of the nutrients, says Pernille Baardseth at Nofima.
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Clinical nutritionist Tine Sundfør also proposes to oven baking vegetables, as well as preparing vegetables in for example a tomato sauce so that the vitamins flow into the sauce and not into the boil water.
– And when you steam the vegetables, use the shortest possible time, steam on the grid, and with a close lid. Pastakjele can also be used. Cooking in the microwave is also beneficial to preserve the nutrients, she says.
The Healthiest Vegetables
But what vegetables are actually the healthiest?
– As a rule, we can say that the more colorful vegetables, the more antioxidants you will find, says clinical nutritionist Tine Sundfør in Synergi Health.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, onions, both yellow onions, garlic and red onion, have a lot of antioxidants.
– But as a rule of thumb, those with brightest colors are the healthiest. For example, tomatoes have a lot of lycopene antioxidants, which have been shown to protect against cancer. Dark green salads have more folate, more iron and more antioxidants than light green salads, she says.
Sundfør adds that the most important thing is to provide a varied consumption of fruits and vegetables.
A handful of vegetables
It is well documented that fruit and vegetables reduce the risk of disease. But just how much is nobody who knows.
Norwegian authorities recommend five a day. But how much is that?
– There is no clear evidence of the amount of vegetables, fruit and berries that provide optimal health benefits. Based on a comprehensive assessment it is recommended that everyone should eat at least 500 grams each day, says Clinical Nutritionist Tine Sundfør in Synergy Health.
Therefore, you are hooked on garbage food
But since people can not walk and weigh 500 grams, five handfuls are a good goal. At least half should be vegetables, she says.
According to Sundfør, a higher intake is likely to have additional positive health effects, but it is uncertain what is the optimum intake.
Extra Health Effect
According to Sundfør, many vegetables on the plate cause an additional health effect in that the vegetables will normally displace other, more calorie foods such as meat or rice.
– Vegetables are foods with high volume, but little calories, and they give a good sense of satiety. This extra effect you will never get from a vitamin pill, says the nutritionist.
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