Nutrition & Costs Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables


February 13, 2012 - Author: Steven Miller - Bill Knudson

Fruits and vegetables are important sources of key nutrients. Nonetheless, it is generally conceded that many Americans do not consume adequate levels of most fruits and vegetables. . For example, research shows that about 90 percent of vitamin C, 50 percent of vitamin A, and 40 percent of Folic Acid in the American diet is obtained from consuming fruits and vegetables (Klein, 1987). In addition, fruits and vegetables are important sources of magnesium and Iron (Breene, 1994). Increasing fruit and vegetable intake is a key recommendation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines highlight the three main reasons to promote fruits and vegetables: fruits and vegetables are major contributors of key nutrients; consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer; and most vegetables and fruits, when prepared without added fats or sugars, are relatively low in calories (ref: 2010 DGA). In addition, those at greatest risk for diet-related ailments are the poor, who have documented barriers to healthy food alternatives (Mazur, Marquis and Jensen 2003). This group tends to  have lower mobility and restricted access to grocery stores, making purchases of packaged fruits and vegetables for delayed consumption a much more acceptable option.

Canned and frozen varieties of fruits and vegetables provide a convenient way to promote intake of key nutrients. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables have a shelf life longer than their fresh counterparts and often are ready to eat and easy to use in meal preparation. These features make canned and frozen fruits and vegetables valuable to busy and cost-conscious consumers. Many shoppers attracted by low prices and large packaging discounts, are turning to big-box wholesale clubs and supercenters to meet their grocery needs (Martinez, 2007). There has been a great deal of research on the impact of canning on the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, however, estimates of impact are inconsistent. Much of this research as focused on ascorbic acid or Vitamin C since Vitamin C is adversely affected by high temperature processing (Kramer, 1977). One consistent finding with respect to Vitamin C and other nutrients is that nutritional value is dependent on the variety of fruit and vegetables processed. It should be noted that due to differences in methodologies and practices used in the research it is difficult to reach definitive conclusions (Rickman, Barrett and Bruhn, 2007). Real world food storage and preparation make it even more difficult to make definitive statements about the nutritional differences across processed, packaged and fresh produce. Fresh produce loses its nutrient value faster than canned produce. As described below, cooking and other factors also impact nutrient content. Despite the challenges for researchers, the relative nutrient content of fruits and vegetable consumption across packaging options is an important consideration.

Despite the challenges in measuring the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables across packaging options, there has been sufficient research to build real knowledge about nutritional merits across multiple packaging options. Equally important is to make sense of the economics behind different
packaging options. The literature seldom addresses the cost effectiveness of raw versus processed fruits and vegetables into canned and frozen packaging. Moreover, , few have explored the nutritional content of food packaging relative to consumer costs. This question is relevant to households and to policy in the face of chronic health problems such as obesity, hypertension and Type II diabetes that are directly linked to diet. , This question is relevant to social safety net policies designed to cost effectively secure low-income food supply. This paper discusses research on nutritional uptake across fresh and processed fruit and vegetable options and describes well-established measures of nutrient intake across multiple fruit and vegetable
items with a comparison of the nutrient uptake by packaging – including raw, canned, and frozen. It concludes with a summary of findings.


Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at