Canned Foods Can be Good for You

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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.


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