Canned foods have many advantages over other traditional ways to purchase foods. Adults in the United States consume fruit about 1.1 times per day and vegetables about 1.6 times per day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommends that Americans eat more fruits and vegetable as part of a healthy diet. These nutrient dense foods provide important vitamins and minerals that can help prevent diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Along with a healthy weight and exercise, increasing fruit and vegetable intake can add variety to your meal plan and provide your body with the power to combat disease. One simple way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is through canned foods. Now, you may have heard the common recommendation to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. This is pretty much a dietitian’s go to phrase, right? Fresh is best. Well, let’s take a deeper dive into the convenience and versatility of canned foods to see how they may work for you and dispel some common myths.
Myth 1: Canned foods are void of nutrition.
When foods are canned (or frozen), they are actually harvested at the peak of ripeness, then packaged immediately. This ensures that the nutrients are sealed in. Vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, folate, thiamin, and carotenoids are maintained during the canning process. Canned pumpkin actually has a higher vitamin A than fresh pumpkin. In contrast, fresh fruits and vegetables are typically harvested and then travel a long distance to reach the grocery store. They then sit on the shelf for a few days prior to being consumed. Enzymes break down nutrients as these fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to air, heat, and light, decreasing nutrient content.
Myth 2: Canned foods are high in salt and sugar.
While it is true that some canned foods are higher in salt and sugar, there are increased varieties available on the market. Look for canned vegetables that are low sodium, 50% less salt or no salt added to help limit salt intake. Tomato sauce tends to be highest in both sodium and sugar. Look for no salt added tomato sauce varieties. You can always add your own herbs and spices to flavor the sauce or vegetable. When shopping the canned fruit isle, stay clear of fruit canned in heavy syrup, which contributes to added sugar in the diet. Look for fruit canned in 100% fruit juice.
Myth 3: Canned food tastes bad.
Canned foods are versatile and can be incorporated into different recipes. If you are not fond of the taste of the vegetables right out of the can, try rinsing vegetables and add different spices, such as garlic or onion. This can enhance the flavor while adding other health benefits.
Myth 4: Canned foods are highly processed.
One of the great benefits of canned foods is that you are able to eat foods that may not be available otherwise. Canned foods are actually harvested and packaged immediately, extending the availability throughout the year. So, canned foods are minimally processed. Foods are cut, peeled and stemmed which can save time in the kitchen as well. The processing of canned fruits actually helps to break down the pectin, so if you have a sensitive stomach when you eat fresh fruits, you may find that you tolerate canned fruits better.
Myth 5: Canned foods are high in preservatives.
The canning process eliminates the need for preservatives. So, if you are looking to cut back on preservatives in your diet and increase variety throughout the year, eating canned foods is a great option. Most canned foods do not contain preservatives, have an extended shelf life which decreases waste and are affordable.
Canned foods can be misunderstood, but I hope that I have provided you something to contemplate the next time you walk down the canned food isle in the grocery store.