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Say "yes" to canned fruits, vegetables, and beans; good nutrition can come in a can--and contribute to a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Canned foods--fruits, vegetables, and beans--are the ultimate convenience foods--nutritious, available year-round, and economical. Yet surveys show they are misunderstood and not considered healthful choices.

Historically, canning was developed to preserve summer's bounty, and extend food availability all year long to prevent seasonal starvation. Canned foods contain the same important nutrients--sometimes even more--as fresh foods, and they can help you fit more fruits, vegetables, and seafood into your diet, at a lower cost.

Capture a nutritional bounty. Many consumers desire fresh over canned foods, but it doesn't always make nutritional--or seasonal--sense. "Fresh produce can lose lots of nutrients, especially during the winter when it travels hundreds or thousands of miles to get to your grocer, where it then sits on the shelf until you buy it," says author of Plate for Moms, Elizabeth Ward, RD. "Fresh, local produce is impossible to come by in many parts of the country during winter, so relying on canned foods is a practical solution to have nutritious products year-round."

Some fresh vegetables, such as spinach and green beans, lose up to 75 percent of their vitamin C within 7 days of harvest. Yet canned fruits and vegetables are packed at peak ripeness to deliver the same consistent taste year round. The canning process locks in nutrients when the food is at its ultimate freshness. Further, canned foods are environmentally friendly because the metal used in containers is the most recycled material in the U.S.

A canned nutrition boost A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences showed that canned fruits and vegetables provide important essential nutrients, like vitamin C, often at a lower cost per nutrient than fresh, frozen or dried forms. And a study that analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that including canned fruits and vegetables in children's diets improved overall diet quality. "Children who ate canned fruits and vegetables ate 22 percent more vegetables, 14 percent more fruit, and had better diet quality and increased nutrient intake," says study co-author Marjorie Freedman, PhD.

Some nutrients are even higher in canned foods. Lycopene, the antioxidant in tomatoes, increases in bioavailability when heated, making it more potent in canned tomatoes than in fresh tomatoes. Canned pumpkin has less water than fresh, thereby increasing the concentration of vitamin A.

Salt/sugar concern? While canned foods can be high in sodium, the leading sources of sodium in the American diet are not from canned foods (nor are canned fruits among the top sources of added sugar), according to USDA data. You can avoid extra sodium and sugar in canned foods by choosing those labeled "no-salt" and "no-sugar added." Rinsing also can help reduce salt and sugar significantly.

Maximize those canned foods! Canned foods are the perfect addition to your ' favorite casseroles, soups, and salads. Not only do they help provide seasonal fruits and vegetable for pennies on the dollar, but using canned foods saves preparation time by skipping the cleaning, chopping, and cooking. Ward believes using canned vegetables--especially vegetables that are timely to prepare, such as artichokes--can simplify cooking, noting, "I probably wouldn't eat artichokes if they weren't cleaned and cut up in a can." EN

--Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD

Today, canned foods provide an easy solution for healthier eating in today's fast-paced world.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Nothing lasts forever, even canned foods in your pantry; most are good for about one year. Check the "best by" date to make sure your canned foods are at their best.


Bisphenol A (SPA) is a structural component used to coat the interior of food cans, to prevent contamination and safeguard the food from microbes. While there have been many concerns regarding the safety of SPA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently states that SPA is safe at current levels used in food containers and packaging; however, there is an ongoing safety review of scientific evidence. In the meantime, the FDA is conducting in-depth studies to clarify uncertainties about BPA. If you're concerned, you can choose aseptic pouches and glass jars, which do not contain BPA. For further information, see "BPA Safety Science Update" in the September 2014 issue of EN.

1 pound 95% lean ground beef
  Salt and pepper as desired
2 Tsbp olive or canola oil
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 15-oz cans reduced-soduim beans (e.e., black or kidney), rinsed,
1 28-oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1. Place a 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add the meat and brown, breaking it up into very small pieces as it
3. Remove the meat from the pan, drain, and season with salt and ground
   black pepper, if desired. Set aside.
4. Return the empty pan to the stove. Add oil and heat over medium.
   Add garlic,onion,and peppers
   and cook until soft, about 5minutes. Add reserved meat and stir in
   beans,tomatoes,and cumin. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and
   simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 286 calories; 29 grams(g)
carbohydrate; 9g fiber; 2g fat; 25g protein; 331 milligrams sodium

Recipe courtesy flizabeth Word, RD
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Article Details
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Author:Zelman, Kathleen
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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