New Study Documents the Nutrient Value of Processed Fruits and Vegetables

A study recently published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are cost-effective and nutritious options to comparable fresh products and can be an integral component in a healthy diet.  The University of Michigan researchers examined the nutritional content of 10 common fruits and eight common vegetables in fresh, frozen, and canned form.  They used this data to estimate the nutrients per calorie for each item.  In addition, they collected USDA product cost data to allow them to calculate the per-serving cost of the nutrients.

The fruits examined included tomatoes, peaches, pears, apricots, and six other items.  The vegetables studied included spinach, corn, asparagus, and five others.  For each item, the researchers developed indices of nutritional content per calorie consumed using information from USDA and National Institute of Medicine databases.   The results indicated that both canned and frozen peaches had a higher index value than fresh, other items had comparable or lower indices than fresh items.  In all cases the processed products contained valuable nutrients that are essential to meeting daily nutritional guidelines.

The researchers used USDA and other data to estimate the equivalent price per edible cup for the 18 fresh, frozen, and canned items.  In many cases, such as tomatoes and peaches, the cost of the processed product was comparable, or lower, than the fresh equivalent.  The largest disparity in cost was for spinach and green beans; the fresh items cost about three times more than the canned equivalents, and nearly double the frozen versions.  Of the group of products studied, frozen asparagus had the highest cost per edible cup, about twice the cost of the fresh equivalent.

Dr. Steven Miller and Dr. William Knudson, the authors of the report, note that many low income households have limited access to fruits and vegetables, and school feeding programs must meet federal nutritional guidelines with very limited budgets.   Based on the results, a number of processed fruit and vegetable items can provide families and schools with excellent nutrition for a relatively low cost.  To obtain a copy of the study, contact Rob Neenan in the CLFP office.

Article written by Rob Neenan, President and CEO, California League of Food Processors

California League Of Food Producers