Does Freezing Harm Foods?
By Marti Fry
We know for certain that heating foods (that is, cooking) destroys foods by changing their chemical and organic structure. Proteins are coagulated (fused and hardened) and their amino acid molecules are broken up (deaminized), thus making them unusable. Carbohydrates (starches and sugars) become partially or wholly caramelized, though this is not readily detectable in the earlier stages of cooking. Caramelized sugars are indigestible, hence toxic to the body. Minerals are changed to their unusable and poisonous inorganic state and vitamins are largely, if not wholly, ruined.
The question arises whether the opposite extreme, freezing, likewise alters the chemical and organic structure of foods. Let’s pursue this method of food preservation.
First, we should note that freezing does not affect foods of little water content—nuts, seeds, dried legumes and dried fruits lose nothing by freezing. In nature, seeds and nuts remain fertile no matter how cold it gets. The more water a food contains, the more it is adversely affected by freezing.
When a food is frozen, its water expands. This causes two immediately destructive occurrences:
The cell walls burst and the cell contents are spilled due to the internal water expansion; hence the cell’s life is lost.
Oxidation occurs where air reaches the frozen foodstuff; hence nutrients are lost.
In addition to bursting the cell walls of foods and thus allowing oxidation to occur, two other things happen:
When the cells burst, certain of their organelles release self-destruct enzymes called lysosomes. While these enzymes are not active during freezing (and some are even destroyed), those which remain intact will speedily decompose the cell contents upon thawing. Lysosomes are in cells for the purpose of self-destructing dead cells so the dead cells will not create problems for the organism.
Whether oxidized or deranged by its own lysosomes, dead cells become soil for bacteria and fungi when the temperature becomes favorable again—bacteria are active at just above freezing up to temperatures around 160 degrees.
Oxidation of burst cells is the foremost cause of food deterioration during frozen storage. Frozen foods never taste as good to an unperverted palate as their fresh counterparts, even if no additives and pre-freezing treatments are employed. This is, of course, due to their deterioration while frozen.
While microorganisms such as bacteria are also inert during freezing, they become active just as soon as they are thawed. Hence, frozen foods, once removed from the freezer, decompose much more rapidly than do fresh foods. As mentioned, this is because of the bursting of the cell walls of the food when its own water expands and because of the subsequent decomposition through oxidation, self-destruct lysosomes and the final cleanup crew, bacteria.
It is well to repeat that food is rapidly destroyed when cell walls are burst, whether by cooking, blending, juicing, mashing or freezing. Oxidation occurs when cell contents are exposed to the air, and if temperatures are favorable, the cells’ own lysosomes self-destruct its components.
Does this mean that banana “ice cream,” fruit “smoothies” made with frozen bananas, and other frozen foods aren’t truly healthful? Well, unfortunately, YES! Frozen foods have a similar effect on our organism as lightly steamed foods. Frozen foods should be used in moderation if at all. They may be helpful in inducing people to change over to their natural diet, especially people who are not willing to give up frozen treats such as ice cream Or some kind of dessert. Banana “ice cream” is a fair substitute and is far less harmful than frozen products containing additives, sugar, milk, honey, etc.
Also, remember that in our stressful environment, foods which digest quickly give us fewer problems than foods slow to digest (cooked foods, frozen foods and foods rich in oils and proteins such as nuts and seeds).
Frozen food must remain our stomach until it is warmed to body temperature. This delay can lead to fermentation of fruit sugars before the food reaches the small intestine for absorption. If we become emotionally upset (angry, irritated, annoyed, frustrated, etc.) while there is food in our stomach, digestion will be suspended and discomfort may follow.
Easily and quickly digested foods such as fresh fruits, on the other hand, will result in much briefer and less intense discomfort if you experience any stressful emotions.
Whenever you wonder which foods are best for humans, just look to nature for answers. Nature’s only food storage and preservation method is drying. Fruits and berries will dry on the tree or vine if birds, insects or humans don’t get to them first. Peas, beans and other legumes will dry when left in their pods. Dried foods which are frozen are not harmed because of their extremely small water content: there’s not enough water to expand and burst the cell walls.
Nature provides us with food during every season. Thanks to modern transportation and refrigeration methods, people in northern climates can eat relatively fresh food the year round. Unsulphured dried fruits are available in many health, food stores. In most cases we are better off using fresh or dried foods than foods which have been frozen.