Canned foods: the good, the bad and the ugly truth

Canned foods can be a lifesaver. They can also be dangerous. How so? It’s all about the type of food, and the type of canning process. So, here’s what you need to know to not only save some money, but also save your health.

Canning 101
Canning is used to preserve foods for long periods. During this process, foods are prepared, sealed and heated. Heat is used to kill harmful bacteria and prevent spoiling, but can also destroy heat-sensitive nutrients like Vitamin C. For this reason, canned foods often get a bad rep for being less nutritious than fresh or frozen foods.

Despite the loss, studies show that canning retains most of a food’s nutrients. Many canned fruits and vegetables still contain the same amount of vitamins and minerals as their fresh equivalents. Vitamins A, D, E and K aren’t lost through canning, and neither are minerals like iron, calcium and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Some foods actually see their healthy compounds increase after being canned. Heating during canning can boost important antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene, and make them more readily available to your body.

The good:

Canned food is a safe, healthy alternative to fresh foods. They are convenient and can be found almost anywhere. It’s practical way to add more nutrient-dense foods to your diet, they don’t spoil easily and can be stored safely for years. On top of that, they are much cheaper than fresh food!

Your best canned food options:

  1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that may help prevent prostate and breast cancer. Lycopene becomes more potent when tomatoes are preserved. Canned tomatoes are also a good source of Vitamin A.

  1. Sardines

Canned sardines are a rich, inexpensive source of Omega-3 fatty acids and heart-healthy Vitamin B12. Some canned sardines are packed in a tomato sauce, making them a great source of lycopene.

  1. Beans

Black, kidney and other variations of canned beans are high in fibre, iron and memory-boosting Vitamin B1. They’re also an excellent source of protein. Plus, they can save you hours of cooking time. Just be wary of baked beans in tomato sauce as they can be high in sugar.

  1. Lentils

Canned lentils are low in calories, high in protein, and offer a range of essential minerals including folate, copper, iron, and manganese.

  1. Corn

Canned corn provides the same amount of fibre as fresh corn at a fraction of the cost. Canning can also boost the antioxidant activity of corn, making canned corn a good source of antioxidants.

Read  5 Top cholesterol-lowering foods

The bad:

All canned foods aren’t created equal. So, you still need to be mindful when going to the shop:

  • Always read food labels and the ingredients list.
  • Look for BPA-free containers. BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical used to coat food cans, and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • When checking the ingredients, don’t buy anything with a high sodium or salt content.
  • Avoid any foods that are canned in syrup.
  • Drain and rinse canned foods to lower their salt and sugar content.
  • Never eat from cans that are bulging, dented, discoloured, cracked, or leaking.
  • Check the best before date.

Canned foods to avoid:

  1. Corned beef

Don’t be fooled into thinking that canned corned beef is a good source of protein. This overly processed meat is high in cholesterol, trans fats, and salt, which is bad news for your heart.

  1. Soup

A can of soup can save you time and effort in the kitchen, but that’s about the only benefit. Most canned soups are laden with sodium and artificial preservatives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), a toxic substance which has been linked to migraines, asthma, and obesity.

  1. Canned fruit in syrup

As melt-in-your-mouth as they are, canned fruit are one of the worst foods you can put into your body. They’re loaded with excess sugar and low in nutrients.