What About Frozen Food? Is it All Bad?
By: Good Looking Kangaroo (w/ Good Looking Loser)
Forward by Good Looking Loser
If you know anything about nutrition, particularly about 'trans fat', the very worst "macronutrient" (it's hardly a nutrient, you should avoid it at all costs) that you can possibly consume, I'm sure you already avoid trans fat. Trans fat clogs your arteries and can even supplement won’t actually strip 10lbs off you. What doesn't end up destroying your mind and organs ends up stored as fat, causing fewer people to find you attractive/take you seriously.
Frozen foods, particularly frozen "meals", contain significant amounts of trans fat. Fast food, almost always frozen prior, contains significant amounts of trans fat.
By default - it is quite reasonable to assume that ALL frozen food is bad.
And If it isn't bad, it holds very little nutritional value since the nutrients have been destroy during the freezing process.
But is this the case?
Are there any frozen foods that still belong in your freezer?
I sent Good Looking Kangaroo - an established personal trainer and nutritionist with dual-citizenship in Australia and the United States to find out.
Does All Frozen Food Totally Suck?
As a Nutritionist, I get asked all sorts of odd questions regarding diet and eating.
It seems the more time I spend working in this field, the weirder and more far fetch the questions become.
For the most part, these questions seem to revolve around me confirming or disproving something someone heard from their friend, neighbor, colleague or personal trainer. Confirming that low fat diets don’t work as well as low carbohydrate diets, or that the latest fat blasting supplement won’t actually strip 10lbs off you in one day.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter how much research is published; the true science behind dieting never seems to be disseminated into society.
There are political/corporate reasons for that, but that is an issue for another time.
Although you are safe to assume that frozen food with any amount of trans fat is terrible for you, the verdict on "more healthy" frozen food isn't completely black or white.
We’ll start with the bad and work our way around to the "okay".
Why Frozen Foods Can Be BAD
Frozen foods can be bad.
Very bad in fact.
So bad, they can shave years off your life, add pounds of fat to your waist line and clog your arteries with plaque. The frozen foods that I’m talking about here are the frozen “re-heat” meals variety. Frozen meals, frozen lasagna, frozen pizzas, frozen pies etc. etc.
Typically speaking, most frozen foods are loaded up with morbid ingredients like trans fats, salt and high fructose corn syrup.
Trans fats are the deadliest kinds of fats you can consume, significantly boosting your LDL cholesterol levels (the bad ones) and your risk of heart disease.
Salt is among the most common ingredient across all frozen foods and in most cases usually is in excess of the amount of salt you actually should be consuming each day. It’s not unusual to find frozen meals that contain 100-200% of your daily salt intake, as many manufacturers add it as a means to increase the flavor of the product.
High fructose corn syrup is typically added as a cheap means to add bulk and sweeten the meal. Unfortunately this ingredient has been shown in numerous studies to increase your risk of both diabetes and heart disease. If it doesn't help shorten your lifespan, it is quite effective in spiking your insulin levels so anything you eat - sticks to you.
There is also the issue of artificial flavoring within many of these products. Because the meal is cooked and then frozen, when it is defrosted, the food tends to go quite watery. In an effort to mask the watery flavor of the meal, many manufacturers add strong artificial flavors.
That is the primary issue - frozen food meals are loaded with crap.
I can’t be clear enough when I state, “keep the hell away from frozen meals”.
Why Frozen Foods Can Be OKAY
But it’s not all bad.
And Freezing, per say, isn’t the real problem.
As always, it’s the food manufacturers who are to blame.
Freezing foods as a concept of preserving them is 100% safe and normal.
In order to understand why, you should first understand the process of “snap freezing”.
Snap freezing is a process whereby fruits and vegetables are quickly frozen upon being picked. The first step of the process involves blanching them in hot water or steaming them in order to kill of any present bacteria and stop the actions of any food degrading enzymes. After this process, the fruits or vegetables are stored in a chilled environment below -9.5oC or 15oF.
At this temperature, frozen fruits and vegetables don’t need any preservatives because bacteria and microorganisms are unable to thrive or populate.
This is the beauty of “snap freezing”.
From a nutritional standpoint, there is a debate surrounding the loss of nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables from snap freezing.
The debate can be fought both ways however. Both sides have strong arguments.
For example, during the blanching or steaming process, there is a loss of water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B group vitamins.
However, on the flip side, when fruits and vegetables are picked and frozen, they are often ripe with their highest vitamin/mineral/antioxidant content. When you eat them, you may be eating higher quality fruits or vegetables than you otherwise would consume.
Ironically, some frozen foods (fruits and vegetables) may be better quality than their never-frozen counterparts on the shelves.
It’s too close to tell; it will literally vary on a fruit-by-fruit, vegetable-by-vegetable basis, and even science agrees.
Remember, we are talking about frozen fruits and vegetables, not the other "Hungry Man" or "Marie Calendar" meals that only committed obese people buy.
That stuff is awful for you.
Organic Frozen Food?
There are plenty of natural, health or specially food stores that offer 'Organic Frozen Foods'.
It seems like a paradox -
"Organic" is considered to be healthful.
"Frozen" is considered to be unhealthful.
For the purposes of this argument, please note that we are talking solely about frozen fruit and vegetables or individual uncooked foods with no preservatives/added sugar.
Not frozen food meals, which you should not be eating - regardless if they are organic. Organic doesn't mean they haven't been pre-cooked in partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat) or are without plenty of added sugar to make it more appealing.
If you've read our article, "Are Organic Foods Really Better For You?", you will know (but might be surprised, as I was) that organic foods don't usually have a better nutritional profile than their lesser non-organic counterparts.
They are generally the same in the vitamin/mineral/antioxidant/phytonutrient department.
The same applies here - organic frozen foods are not more nutritious than their non-organic frozen counterparts. They will be about the same.
Still, organic foods, fresh or frozen, have not been swimming in pesticides or chemicals that cause health problems.
Like fresh organic foods, frozen organic foods won't have pesticides or preservatives and are safer to consume than both non-organic fresh and frozen foods.
Lastly, as far as 'taste', it will be a matter of preference.
I personally find that ALL organic foods taste better than their non-organic versions.
Fresh vs. Frozen vs. Organic vs. Non-Organic
Lets go over the different scenarios and reach some general conclusions.
There will always be exceptions obviously.
Organic Frozen vs. Non-Organic Frozen: Pick Organic Frozen
- When comparing organic frozen fruits/vegetables/meats to non-organic frozen fruits/vegetables/meats - Organic frozen wins.
Organic Frozen vs. Organic Fresh: Pick Organic Fresh
- When comparing organic frozen fruits/vegetables/meats to organic fresh fruits/vegetables/meats - Organic fresh wins.
Organic Frozen vs. Non-Organic Fresh: It Varies
This is the only hypothetical where the winner isn't quite clear.
When comparing organic frozen fruits/vegetables/meats to non-organic fresh fruits/vegetables/meats - It will vary.
In many cases, so long as they do not have trans fat or added sugar, organic frozen food will be better for you than non-organic fresh food.
At a nutritional level, non-organic fresh food will be slightly better but frozen organic food will be safer to eat.
- Non-organic fresh foods will have a slightly better nutritional profile.
- Organic frozen foods will be safer to eat.
- Non-organic fresh foods will be less expensive.
Neither one completely wins.
Although 'Organic Fresh Foods' would seem to be the obvious winner, when it comes to the general fresh vs frozen debate, unfortunately there is no clear definite winner at present.
The debate has solid arguments from both sides and science has yet to confirm a drastic advantage between the two.
If you are overly concerned about the nutritional degradation of the foods you are eating, then I would strongly recommend you change your focus to the way in which you prepare your foods. Your choice of cooking method plays a much more significant role in the degradation of nutritional quality than storage alone does. However this issue, is best left for another article on another rainy day.
What is certain, however, is that frozen meals (pizzas, burritos, tacos and other crap) should be completely avoided.
Frozen fruits, vegetables and uncooked meats remain an option however.