Did you know that canned foods are very nutritious? Fruits and vegetables destined for canning are picked at their peak and processed within hours. What a great way to preserve nature’s bounty! They are also convenient for those who lack freezer space.
Researchers who have looked at the nutritional value of canned foods have found that nutrient losses are minor, much as you would get with home cooking. The biggest losses occur with heat-sensitive and water-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins B and C, but even here there is usually not much nutritional difference and many canned foods are good sources of these nutrients.
A study at the University of Illinois found that some canned foods were even more nutritious than fresh! Canned salmon, for example, has more calcium than fresh salmon because during processing the small bones are softened enough to be eaten. Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant in tomatoes, becomes more potent with canning. And legumes such as kidney beans actually have an increase in soluble fiber during canning. This could translate to a lower risk for heart disease.
The two biggest nutritional differences between canned and fresh are the salt and sugar that are sometimes added to canned foods. You can reduce the sodium content of canned foods by up to 40% by rinsing them thoroughly under cold running water. Many low-sodium canned goods are also available for purchase in grocery stores and whole food markets. To avoid excess calories from sugar, look for fruit packed in water or in its own juice.
Canned foods taste good, too. At the University of Massachusetts, 12 favorite American recipes were each prepared in two versions, one using canned foods and one using fresh foods. When the dishes were rated on taste, appearance, aroma, texture and nutrition, the canned food versions did very well – they were usually liked as much as those prepared with fresh foods, and sometimes the canned foods were preferred!
Canned foods also put international delicacies at your fingertips. Meals that use water chestnuts, pineapple, mandarin oranges, or artichoke hearts would not be possible for most of us if we didn’t rely on canned foods.
Most canned food is shelf-stable for at least one year as long as they are properly stored. Store canned foods in a cool, dry place and avoid storing them at hotter temperatures. Never use cans that are rusted, leaking, deeply dented (especially on the seams), or bulging to avoid deadly botulism. Once opened, canned foods are perishable and should be stored in a covered, food-safe container in the refrigerator.
Quick and easy
Canned foods are quick, convenient and inexpensive! Stock up on canned goods that will help you get your five-a-day, soluble fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants, protein and calcium. Since the food has already been cooked during processing, it’s ready to eat at a moment’s notice. Here are some easy ways to eat well with canned foods:
• Keep canned fruits and single-serving juices chilled in the refrigerator, ready to eat.
• Rinsed and drained canned legumes (kidney, garbanzo, pinto or black beans) and canned vegetables make a tasty addition to salads, soups or casseroles.
• Need a quick meal? Canned tuna is fast and nutritious!
• Combine a variety of canned vegetables and toss with your favorite salad dressing.
• Stir canned pumpkin into chili (no one will know it’s there!) or mix into pancake or muffin batter for a nutritious boost.
• For color, nutrition and flavor, create a smoothie with canned carrots and orange juice.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.