4 Health-Related Reasons to Opt for Fresh Food Over Frozen
April 26, 2018
Refrigeration is one of the most widely appreciated technological advances of the modern age. It keeps food fresh and safe for longer periods, ensuring that people can enjoy their meals without worrying about the disgusting tastes or the diseases that can come from food that has been left out at room temperature for a prolonged period. It also allows companies to transport food over long distances, making items available in places in which it would not be available otherwise. These benefits are particularly applicable to foods that are frozen rather than just cooled.
Not only are frozen foods often good for you, but in the case of frozen vegetables, they actually tend to be better for you than vegetables stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature. This is because they tend to maintain more of their original nutrients.
Reasons to Opt for Fresh Food Over Frozen
Despite the benefits of freezing, though, there are health-related problems that arise when people eat high quantities of frozen food, and these issues are worth considering.
Too Much Salt
For some people – single men in particular – the easiest way to “cook” for themselves is to just fill the freezer with microwavable meals. In some cases, this may seem like a good choice, as such meals may provide a good balance of starches, vegetables, fruits, and protein. However, in most cases, they also have high levels of salt. Companies do this usually because they are concerned about making their products tasty enough for people to continue eating them over the long term.
Your salt – or sodium – intake is important because it can affect multiple aspects of your health by causing your body to store too much fluid. A diet that consistently contains high levels of salt can result in high blood pressure that contributes to problems such as hypertension, stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and liver disease.
Dietitians generally advise people to stay under 2,300 mg of salt per day. However, when a single frozen meal easily contains nearly 2,000 mg of salt, that can prove difficult.
Of course, this issue does not apply to all frozen foods. Frozen vegetables usually do not have any added salt. As for microwavable meals, some of those are specifically billed as being low-sodium and heart-healthy. Such meals are probably fine in the salt department.
Too Much Starch
Another common ingredient in frozen foods – microwavable meals in particular – is starch. Food producers use starch to keep frozen foods fresh. They also use it because it contributes to food texture and simply makes things tasty.
The problem with all of this starch is that it just is not good for your body. Starch contains a type of sugar called glucose. Ingesting large amounts of glucose can cause your body to become obese. This is a considerable issue in developed countries. In the United States, the CDC estimates that roughly 38% of all adults aged 20 and over are obese.
Obesity is an issue because it contributes to and correlates with so many other health problems. For example, obese people tend to develop joint problems in their knees and hips as a result of the added weight. They also have a higher tendency of suffering from heart disease, gallbladder disease, gout, cancer, sleep apnea, etc.
Perhaps most importantly, though, obese people tend to develop type 2 diabetes – and specifically because they eat too much starch. Diabetes can constitute a significant inconvenience as well as contributing to other health problems. A diet that relies heavily on frozen dinners can contribute to a situation in which one develops type 2 diabetes.
Too Much Saturated Fat
Contrary to popular belief, there are actually bad fats and good fats in food. For example, avocado is a highly fatty food, but the fat that it does contain is the good kind of fat. Unfortunately, many frozen foods contain the bad kind. In particular, they contain high levels of saturated fat.
Saturated fat is bad for you because it contributes to dangerous blood cholesterol levels, which can cause heart disease and other health problems. While there is some disagreement about how bad it is for you, the American Heart Association recommends that people try to limit their intake of saturated fat, which is plentiful in fatty meats – especially certain kinds of meat that people often freeze, such as bacon.
Too Many Carcinogens
A carcinogen is a substance that contributes to the development of cancer. There are various ways in which a diet heavy in frozen foods can also result in high levels of carcinogens in the body, eventually resulting in cancer.
Acrylamide is a carcinogen that is present in many different consumer products such as caulking and some glues and sealants. It is also heavily present in tobacco smoke. In addition to that, though, it can form somewhat spontaneously in foods. This happens when people cook certain plant-based foods at high temperatures and in the presence of certain sugars.
A common source of acrylamide is fried potatoes. When people cook their potatoes (fries, chips, etc.) to the point of browning, this often creates acrylamide in the food. It can happen when you bake, fry, or roast your potatoes. For people who frequently like to buy frozen fries to cook at home, this can be a significant issue.
Acrylamide does not tend to form in boiled or steamed foods, however.
Carcinogens in Red Meats
Another source of carcinogens in commonly frozen foods can be seen in red meats, especially highly processed red meats such as hot dog meat and sausage.
One reason for this is the use of nitrite preservatives. Food producers use these preservatives, of course, to preserve the meat so that it does not go bad and become a sponge full of bacteria. However, despite the benefits of such preservatives, they are not good for the body themselves, and often contribute to cancer in the digestive system.
Another source of carcinogens in red meats is just the manner of preparation. When people cook red meats at high temperatures – such as a grill during a barbecue – this tends to lead to the formation of carcinogenic compounds, especially in processed red meats.
This is an issue for frozen food because it is very common for people to keep foods such as hot dog meat, hamburger meat, sausage, and bacon frozen until they are ready to cook. The freezing itself does not contribute to this problem, but as people commonly freeze such red meats, they can become a problem.