We often hear the term “fresh is best” and sure, in an ideal world, we would all have the time, resources, and availability to eat a diet solely composed of farm-fresh fruits and veggies, animal proteins, nuts, seeds, legumes, and unrefined whole grains. But that’s simply not the reality for most of us today.
Adding stress to our dietary choices is the widely circulated notion that all processed food is evil. And that’s just not the case. Canned, frozen, and dehydrated fruits, veggies, and legumes all undergo processing methods that preserve them at peak ripeness, which also happens to be when their nutritional content is highest. And in some instances, these preservation techniques can actually enhance the nutrient density of the food in question. Read on for a detailed scoop on a few of our favorite “processed” staples.
- Canned tomatoes are the perfect example of a processed food that has been documented to be more nutritionally potent than fresh-picked varieties. When tomatoes are heated – as they are in the canning process – their powerful antioxidant, lycopene becomes more available to the body. Plus, canning allows us to enjoy ripe, in-season tomatoes year-round, no matter where we live. We suggest you grab some and put this beautiful and simple Ratatouille on the menu tonight.
- Frozen berries give you that summer feeling any time of year. They’re also equally as nutritious, if not more so, than fresh ones – as confirmed by a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Frozen berries are ideal for smoothies, since they’re often less pricey than fresh, and create a thick and frosty consistency when blended. Put them to work in this Super Blue Smoothie, a perennial favorite of the nutribullet team. And if you’re interested in reading more about the benefits of frozen produce overall, check out this blog post.
- Canned beans are probably one of the most underrated foods in your supermarket. These little plant-powered protein packs are loaded with beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, and phytochemicals. Research also indicates that eating legumes like canned beans regularly can offer a variety of health benefits, including lower blood cholesterol levels and lower rates of heart disease, hypertension, some types of cancer, and diabetes. If you’ve got some canned garbanzo beans on hand, this recipe for Classic Hummus never gets old.
So there you have it: three “processed” foods that actually enhance the nutritional content of our diets while making food prep more convenient and affordable. Load up your cart, keep them on hand, then chill out. With their extended shelf life, you’ll have plenty of time to concoct lots of delicious ideas that put them to good use.