What would you expect Japan’s ‘Dish of the Year’ for 2022 to be? While some may guess it to be sushi or unagi, others are likely to place their bet on tempura or ramen. However, turns out, it’s frozen food that has taken away the title in a survey by the Gurunavi Research Institute, which runs a popular website allowing users to search for the top restaurants across Japan.
For the award given to foods that symbolise the year’s social trends, the selection is based on questionnaires and internet search results. This year, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a significant increase in people opting for frozen food items.
According to the institute, the pandemic has led to more restaurants freezing their dishes, mainly for takeout, CNN reported. “Flash-freezing methods have allowed chefs to maintain the integrity of the dish, with some even giving frozen sushi a go.”
It further revealed that the average amount of money spent on frozen foods per family went up by 20 per cent in 2021 from 2019, according to data from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.
As convenient and accessible as it may be, is frozen food healthy for you? Not really!
Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Clinical Dietitian, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore explained that frozen commercial foods are high in sodium, trans fat, and preservatives. “One must be careful of the frequency of its consumption. It can elevate blood pressure, diabetes risk, obesity, and the risk of heart diseases by increasing the LDL cholesterol.”
She added that frozen food items have minimal nutrients as most of them are killed by long-time freezing. “Such foods may get easily contaminated if the cold chain isn’t maintained. Also, some researches show the risk of pancreatic cancer,” Dr Rohatgi warned, adding that “homecooked food, when frozen due to shortage of time, is still a better and healthier choice over eating frozen junk food”. As such, the nutritionist advised to “not indulge very frequently in them”.
Dr Gowri Kulkarni, Head of Medical Operations, MediBuddy, however, said that the nutritional value of frozen food usually doesn’t change much. “Freezing food means storing food at very low temperatures, which reduces the chance of growth of organisms and decay. As long as freezing technology is used without the use of chemicals or preservatives, the nutritional content remains the same and can be considered healthy,” she said.
Earlier, ayurvedic practitioner Dr Alka Vijayan had also explained why one must prefer fresh food items over frozen ones. In an Instagram post, she mentioned that frozen food can cause derangement of the gut microbiome or agni, formation of ama or toxins, and poor nourishment of cells.