Cooking and Entertaining

Are Canned Foods Good for You?

A shelf containing canned food at the grocery store
Canned foods are a blessing to mankind. Whether you’re looking for a quick meal or packing for emergencies, you can count on canned foods as a convenient source of food. And nowadays, more and more food is getting produced in a can. Believe it or not, there’s such a thing as canned cheeseburgers! With so many options available, how can you trust if what you’re eating can be healthy and good for the body? Especially when you’re stuck during a disaster, and all you can rely on is your emergency food stock full of canned foods. How can you be sure that you’re getting the right nutrients for your body? Read more to learn.

How is Canned Food Prepared?

Assessing whether or not canned food is good for you lies in understanding the process of canning. Canning is a method of food preservation for longer-term storage.

To be canned, food is prepared and then sealed in an airtight can. Fruits and vegetables are washed, cut, peeled, chopped, or pitted before canning. Some fruits and vegetables are blanched, while dried beans are hydrated and blanched. Once the food is prepared, the cans are filled with either water or juice and are seasoned to improve the taste.

After processing the food, they are put into cans and are quickly sealed. Because the food is sealed airtight, chemical preservatives are rarely required.

Once the can is sealed, it is quickly heated to a precise high temperature to kill any bacteria and prevent spoilage. After heating, it’s quickly cooled.

Benefits of Canned Foods

The canning process keeps the food sterile and preserves the food itself, but there are other benefits to it. Fruits and veggies picked for canning are at its peak freshness to ensure the best flavor and high nutrient quality. Here are some of the benefits of canned foods you would like to know:

1. It can be just as nutritious as fresh or dried food (some even more).

For many years, the perception of canned foods being less nutritious than fresh foods has been prevalent.

Maybe it’s because canned foods are processed and canned so that the manufacturers may have added some preservatives and additives in there. While that may be true decades ago, canning technology has improved to keep food sterile without the need for chemical preservatives.

Research reveals that what’s more nutritious depends on the food and nutrient in question. Canning may reduce heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C in fruits, so fresh mandarin oranges and peach can be more nutritious than canned ones. However, the important antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene can be boosted by heating, making canned tomatoes, and carrots healthier than fresh form.

Canned fish – not just tuna – are also highly nutritious. The nutrients don’t differ from fresh ones, but canning made it a better source of calcium over fresh fish. This is because the bones are softened and become edible. The canned fish in oil also preserves the omega-3 that’s natural in fish. The only downside of it is that you’ll be consuming more calories than those canned in water.

Canned legumes like beans are just as nutritious as they are dried. But the thing is, it’s more convenient than dried versions because it’s ready to use or ready to eat.

2. It’s a cheap and convenient option for long-term food storage.

Since canned foods are mass-produced, canned foods are often cheaper than fresh ones. To add to that, canned foods can be stored safely for several years, so if you add it to your emergency kit, you can be sure that you have food to eat during disaster situations. And even if it’s not an emergency, the convenience of canned food is priceless during busy days, and we get hungry.

3. It’s sustainable.

Plastic has a bad reputation, and cans are more sustainable. While at first, it may seem like more of a waste, but the fact that cans are easily recyclable makes it a more sustainable food option than other processed foods. Most cans nowadays are made of recycled steel, which can be recycled again. The labels on the can also go straight to the paper recycling bin. But this benefit can only be experienced if you dispose of it properly and put it into the right recycling bins.

What You Need to Know

It may contain some trace amounts of BPA.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to coat the internal potion of cans to prevent the food from coming in direct contact with the metal. People are concerned over its danger to human health since BPA can leach into food, which is linked to causing various cancers and developmental disorders. While this is true, the various regulatory organizations in the world, such as the FDA, Health Canada, the European Union, and NIH, have reviewed the evidence of BPA in canned food. They have uniformly agreed that the risk is negligible to the average adult consumer. Health Canada even stated that the average person would need to consume several hundred cans of food a day to reach the tolerable level of BPA exposure.

While risks to infants can be less certain, it’s still also minimal. But if you’re concerned about its risks to your health, simply follow these steps:

  • Lessen your canned food intake.
  • Look for BPA-free containers.
  • Rinse foods from the can whenever you can.
  • Pick powdered infant formula instead of canned ones.

It may contain toxins.

While it’s very rare, canned foods may still contain toxins produced by the heat-resistant Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which can cause botulism. Thankfully, the canning process provides a temperature that’s high enough to kill it. However, contamination is still possible if the integrity of the can is compromised during the manufacturing process. For you to be safe, never buy and eat from cans that are:

  • Leaking
  • Denting
  • Bulging
  • Discolored
  • Cracking
  • With foul odors

Conclusion

So, are canned foods great for you! The answer is yes. Canning is a safe measure of preparing and preserving foods, and it’s a nutritious alternative to fresh goods. It’s also very convenient to use and consume. The risk of botulism and BPA-related disorders from canned foods is very low and rare. But to err on the side of caution, you can avoid these canned items for your health and safety:

  • Dented cans – When the can is dented, there’s a chance that a microscopic hole is there, allowing the air to enter the can. This can cause decay for the food, reducing its shelf life.
  • Highly processed canned foods – These foods contain a lot of salt or sodium, and is linked to causing heart disease and cancer. You can tell if the canned good is highly processed if the contents are too different from its original form, like Spam, corned beef, and sausages.
  • Canned foods with over 3g of saturated fat per portion – Health guidelines suggest that we must cut down saturated fat intake to help us avoid issues like heart disease.
  • Canned foods with over 300 mg of sodium per portion – Salt enhances flavor and preserves food, but high levels of salt can cause health problems like hypertension and high blood pressure.
  • Canned foods with added sugar – Sugar is deemed unhealthy when taken in large portions, as too much sugar in a diet is linked to diabetes and obesity.
  • Canned foods with too many strange ingredients – Some manufacturers add a lot of non-organic ingredients, as well as non-natural colorings and flavorings. If you want to eat healthier, avoid those with ingredients that are long and complicated, chemical-sounding, and E-numbers.

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