Coronavirus: Preserved foods as a good as fresh

Preserved foods, such as canned and frozen vegetables, fruits, chickpeas, lentils, beans of all kinds, tomatoes, and berries are just as good nutritionally as the fresh versions, scientists at the New Zealand Riddet Institute say.

Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables may be better than “fresh” produce in some cases depending on how much time has passed since the produce was picked.

Using canned and frozen supplies also prevents the waste that often results from buying too many fresh fruits and vegetables at once.

This is especially relevant to Kiwis who are vulnerable to Covid-19, as well as those who want to limit their visits to the grocery stores, and those who want to eat cost effectively.

People tend to look down on canned and frozen foods as being somehow inferior.

Freezing and canning captures the best of our crops. As the food is frozen or canned, often very quickly following harvest, the nutritional content of the food is maintained (frozen) or only looses those vitamins that cooking would remove in many cases (canned).

Fresh fruit and vegetables begin to degrade immediately post-harvest, when the enzymes naturally present start to break down the texture, change flavours, and reduce the vitamins. These processes can be stopped in their tracks by canning or freezing.

This is not a prompt to clear the shelves of canned food. Our growers and food companies are already working overtime to meet the high demand. We are mindful that some growers and retailers can’t trade at the moment.

Generally, New Zealand exports high quality protein and nutrients, but imports lower quality carbohydrates – refined, processed, sugary foods. Many New Zealanders, especially our young and elderly, are malnourished, and simply do not get enough of the fruits and vegetables we produce.

However you consume your food – canned, frozen, fresh – dietitians and food scientists agree that variety is key.

Scientists at the Riddet Institute study what happens inside our bodies to the food we eat. The latest focus in food science has been on how the structure of food affects us and how the bacteria in our gut can influence our weight and our mental state. We need good food to keep our spirits up.

With more time on our hands, we have a golden opportunity to rediscover the benefits of home cooking, and judging by the continuing absence of flour on the shelves, New Zealanders are making the most of it.

We are very lucky in New Zealand to have a secure food supply, albeit unequally enjoyed by the population. We can feed ourselves 10 times over. Good nutrition will help our bodies fight the disease and handle the difficult times ahead.

Article originally featured in the Dominion Post and online – 

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