How to choose practical and healthy frozen foods

    After some fears and reluctance we returned to love and buy the "below zero". Research from the country's Institute of Frozen Food leaves no doubt: the sector in 2021 grew by 2,9%, more than food in general (+ 2,5%). 

    "Thanks to a lucky mix of elements: technological innovation has made it possible to churn out increasingly comfortable and safe products, meeting the tastes of new ones Consumers with less time available but with the need for eat healthily and controlled ”, explains Vittorio Gagliardi, president of the Institute.

    «The renewed interest and the consequent increase in consumption are proportional to the improvement of quality of products. Thanks to the cold, foods are preserved naturally, are not subjected to excessive manipulation and ensure maximum variety at the table with minimum effort, open the home freezer ».

    But really i frozen foods, rather than a fallback due to lack of time in kitchen, can they be a conscious choice? It is healthy?

    How to choose practical and healthy frozen foods 

    Frozen vegetables have little to envy to fresh ones 

    Let's face it: we always feel a little guilty when we buy diced spinach of the freezer counter, ready to be thrown into the pot, compared to the fresh ones, still to be cleaned, proposed a few departments further on.

    Is the fear of eating less healthy justified? "Not always," reassures Dr. Elisabetta Bernardi, a nutrition biologist in Rome. "The Vitamins some vegetables (in particular C and folic acid) degrade after just a few hours of harvesting.

    Then, fresh is always to be preferred when there is the certainty that it is really such (for example: taken in the garden of the house or on the farm). Otherwise, frozen food is better, because very little time passes from when the food is detached from the plant to when it is "treated" and therefore its nutritional properties remain unchanged and so, often, also its organoleptic characteristics.

    Not to mention that the products intended for the frozen foods they are picked at the moment of their maximum ripeness (and richness of precious substances and flavor), something that rarely happens in the fresh: to be able to last longer it still arrives a bit unripe at the supermarket ».

    The advantages of frozen food compared to "fresh a few days”Are confirmed by the recent comparative study by the Food & Technologies departments of some American universities published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis.

    «The authors of the search they have measured, for over two years, the nutritional content of similar very fresh products, frozen and harvested for 5 days », explains the expert. “Broccoli, green beans, spinach and strawberries freshly picked from the field contained the highest amounts of nutrients, but those below zero had doses higher than Vitamin C, beta-carotene and folate compared to products stored for a few days ».

    This is why it makes no sense to be afraid of the freezer bank or turn up your nose at the asterisk on the menu which in restaurants refers to the note "frozen".

    How to choose practical and healthy frozen foods

    Everyone is becoming healthier thanks to new techniques 

    Innovation today has revolutionized the entire industry for the better. "With the modern Iqk technique (individually quick frozen), the cold penetrates quickly because each portion of the product is "frozen" individually ”, says food technologist Giorgio Donegani.

    «At the end of the process you get parts that are not stuck to each other and this allows you to remove easily from the package the necessary number of pieces, increasing practicality and reducing waste. But freezing with the Iqk method is also healthier: rapid cooling allows for maximum flavor, consistency and nutrients to be safeguarded ».

    Also cooking is more speedy. Vittorio Gagliardi adds: «The ingredients are subjected to less thermal stress, with a limited risk that vitamins and antioxidants undergo modifications. Moreover, today it is not at all necessary to defrost foods before cooking them.

    In addition, thanks to research on packaging materials, there are excellent products that pass directly from the freezer to the oven (microwave or traditional) where they cook
    steamed, the best way to keep the nutritional properties intact ».

    How to choose practical and healthy frozen foods

    They allow to avoid waste and reduce waste

    The frozen food of supermarket it is also an ecological food because it cuts down waste that is often produced at home by 47%. "In fact, it allows you to keep food for longer and prevent it from deteriorating and ending up in the dustbin," explains the nutritionist.

    “Plus it's ready and clean. On an industrial level, among other things, what remains is reused for other supply chains (animal feed and fertilizers) ». The benefit is not just environmental but also economical because, with the same weight, the frozen product has no waste and maintains a standard price throughout the year contrary to that of fresh products which can fluctuate according to the climate and the cost of oil 

    How to choose practical and healthy frozen foods

    Choose them with your head thinking about your needs

    Check in label that there is not too much fat or an excess of salt. That among the ingredients there are no preservatives or substances to which you are allergic or intolerant. Compared to the choice of other products, only a few more forethought is needed.

    “The freezer thermometer must be clearly visible and have one on it temperature below 18 ° C, the foods must have closed packages, intact and without too much frost on top.

    To keep the cold chain unchanged, then, you have to always buy frozen foods at the end of the shopping, put them in a fridge bag and transfer them to the home freezer within half an hour at the latest », concludes Gagliardi. 

    How to choose practical and healthy frozen foods

    Watch out for DIY subzero

    Frozen food purchased at the supermarket is subjected to a series of so strict controls which from a food point of view is always safe. As for taste, and nutrients, it is often superimposed on fresh. The same is not true for products frozen at home. "Anything that contains lipids, for example, should not be placed in the freezer," explains nutrition biologist Elisabetta Bernardi.

    “At low temperatures these nutrients degrade, changing the appearance, taste and quality of food. For instance, salmon should never be stored below zero. In fact, the one purchased in the freezer is first degreased ». 

    No to domestic super cold even for fresh meat. It takes a long time for the frost to reach the inside of this food. This involves the formation in the cells of very "large" ice crystals which will break during thawing, causing the liquids to escape and depleting the product.

    «We should avoid putting the bread in the freezer as well: it changes flavor in a short time and completely loses its natural fragrance. And the vegetables, unless they have just been picked ”, concludes Dr. Bernardi.

    Finally, remember that cold does not kill bacteria it simply makes them inactive. So, when you take food (industrial or otherwise) out of the freezer, cook it right away. 

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