While the idea of frozen food may conjure up visions of processed pizza and freezer-burned bags of chicken nuggets, the truth is that when it comes to produce, frozen is better.

Second only to picking off the vine yourself, flash-freezing fruits and vegetables preserves nutrients in their prime and delivers a better quality than most of the produce you'll find at your local grocer. Here's why:

1. Grocery store fruit has a limited life cycle.

Fruit, like all living things, matures on its own schedule, and most of the produce available in a grocery store was picked before it had the chance to ripen. Add to that the transport to the warehouse, the extended periods of storage (in the case of some apples, 14 months!), and the pre-display ripening-by-gas, and you get a subpar piece of produce.

2. Flash-freezing preserves ripeness.

Fruits and vegetables that are flash-frozen at the farm are picked and preserved at their peak ripeness, when they have the most nutrients. At this point, freezing will keep the vitamins right where you want them.

Scientists from the University of Chester confirmed this idea with their study that measured nutrient levels in various produce that had been sitting in a fridge for three days, compared to frozen equivalents. They found more beneficial nutrients overall in the frozen samples, in everything from broccoli to blueberries. In fact, in two out of three cases, frozen fruits and veggies packed higher levels of antioxidants, including polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein, and beta-carotene. In one report, the vitamin C content in fresh broccoli plummeted by more than 50 percent with a week, but dipped by just 10 percent over an entire year when frozen.

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3. Fruit picked prematurely has fewer nutrients.

When fruit is picked early, it has less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. While it will still show normal signs of ripening, this fruit will never have the same nutritional value as its vine-ripening brethren. The little sugary fiber-ball you get at the store may look like the real deal, but it's very likely missing the goods.

4. Frozen fruit is always in season.

Once it's frozen, produce doesn't go out of season. Freezing provides ripe, tasty, and nutritious fruits and vegetables available year-round so you don't have to worry about getting yourself to the farmers market or shop at the mercy of the seasons.

5. Frozen fruit makes eating healthy more convenient.

With frozen fruit, you don't have to sacrifice your lifestyle or your health. One study found that working women spend, on average, less than one hour a day preparing, serving, eating, and cleaning up after meals. Having healthy frozen options cuts down on washing, peeling, and chopping time and increases our nutritional intake by replacing less healthy options.

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