The Truth about Frozen Food

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If you think frozen foods are a relatively modern invention, think again. And if you think fresh is always better than frozen, get set for a mind shift.

The history of frozen food is a long one. The discovery of ancient ice cellars in China has shown that preserving food by freezing it is a practice at least 5,000 years old. The Romans used compressed snow to freeze food, too.

As a preservation technique, freezing preserves nutrients, flavors and colors better than drying or canning. It is fast and easy, saves time, work and money, makes foods available for quick service, and allows stocking up on seasonal favorites or foods on sale.

Among other advantages, frozen foods are easier to transport and store that fresh produce or meats. And new technologies keep frozen food as “fresh” as the moment its temperature is lowered.

In particular, the process known as flash freezing keeps vegetables crisp and colorful, retaining their original taste and nutritional value. It can eliminate some health risks, too.

Specifically, although refrigeration of fresh produce at between 32º~40ºF (0º~5ºC) will slow the growth of bacteria, it takes temperatures below zero (-18ºC) to ensure that they actually die and are not simply weakened and able to survive. Once a food has been frozen to this degree of coldness, it should remain there till ready to thaw and use.

Some frozen vegetables and fruits are even more nutritional than fresh ones, because when harvested they are packed immediately thus keeping the nutrients at their peak.

When buying frozen vegetables, get those packed with nothing but the vegetables alone, devoid of any sort of extenders. Also, if you notice the veggies are frozen into lumps, it’s a sign that they’ve been thawed and refrozen. This reduces the vitamin content and value for what you pay.

Factory frozen vegetables and fruits can be stored for up to 18 months on average, while home-frozen frozen ones are good for only two or so. Re-sealable containers are useful, but to avoid ice crystals forming and loss of flavor, try to use ones that trap little or no air.

As for proteins, frozen chicken, beef, pork and lamb can be kept in the freezer at home for six to ten months. The darker and denser the meat, the longer it can be stored.

Seafood, on the other hand, should not be kept frozen as long. Most fish is good for six to ten months, but shellfish should be defrosted and consumed no longer than four months after freezing.

It goes without saying that prepared meals like frozen pizzas and so-called “TV dinners” are convenient, if not very Paleo friendly. Be sure to check their “best by” dates to determine how long they can be stored. And the same goes for ice cream, which typically lasts up to six months in the freezer if the kids don’t get to it first.

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Ida Cavemen

IDA is the kind-hearted cook who also takes care of the children. This is perhaps the most difficult job in the tribe.

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