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Fresh vs. frozen produce: Which is healthier?

We followed Lena Beal, M.S., RD, LD, a therapeutic dietitian at Piedmont’s Fuqua Heart Center, on one of her popular grocery store tours and got the scoop on the best options in every section of the supermarket. Her tips will help you enjoy your favorite foods while still meeting your health-related goals.

It is easy to assume that fresh produce is always the best choice, but in some cases, frozen fruits and veggies may give you more health benefits and bang for your buck. “The truth about fresh versus frozen is that both have the same nutrients, unless frozen produce has sauces or sugars added,” says Beal.

If your favorite vegetable or fruit is out of season or is more affordable frozen, frozen is often the better choice. “You want your fruits and vegetables to be the most colorful things in your basket and you want variety,” she adds.

What about fruit and vegetable juice? When you forgo whole produce for juice, you’re missing out on filling fiber contained in the skin. While some 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices are available, many consumers select fruit cocktails that only contain 5 to 20 percent juice.

“That gives us added calories and less nutritional value,” says Beal. When you drink fruit or vegetable juice, make sure it’s the 100 percent variety and limit yourself to a 4- to 6-ounce serving. “Do not think juice is a replacement for fruits and vegetables,” she cautions. “When you have the opportunity to buy fresh, fresh is the way to go.”

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