The majority of Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, only 33% of Americans consume the recommended amount of fruits and only 27% consume the recommended amount of vegetables. A study shows that canned fruits and vegetables can help bridge the dietary gap.
Popular media often emphasizes the point that only fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy, and many consumers believe this, but a study by researchers from Michigan State University goes a long way to debunking this myth. Led by Dr. Steven Miller, assistant professor at Michigan State University’s Center for Economic Analysis, researchers looked at both the potential nutritional benefits and the economic benefits of consuming canned food. In terms of nutritional benefits, researchers found that canned fruits and vegetables may well be just as healthy or healthier than their fresh counterparts. For example, canned tomatoes actually contain higher amounts of lycopene and B vitamins than fresh tomatoes. And the canning process makes fiber in beans and other vegetables more soluble to the human body. While food processors and home canners may add sugar or salt to flavor canned fruits or vegetables, these ingredients are optional, and fruits and vegetables may be safely canned without them. Increasingly, processors are opting to manufacture fruits canned with little or no added sugar or fruit packed in juice, and vegetable processors are offering a greater variety of no-salt added products. And rinsing canned vegetables or discarding the canning brine/liquid can dramatically reduce salt (sodium) content, by up to 40%.
Also, the study determined that canned fruits and vegetables can stretch food budgets. Canned foods cost up to 50% less than frozen, and 20% less than fresh, and canned foods are much less likely to be wasted. Furthermore, when people live in areas with limited access to fresh produce, canned foods can fill this nutritional void.
And, canned fruits and vegetables may be safer to eat than fresh or frozen, a real plus. The heat used in canning is designed to destroy pathogens and spoilage organisms that can make people sick or harm product quality. The recent recall of canned corn is an anomaly; heating generally makes fruits and vegetables safe(r) to eat by destroying harmful bacteria that growing produce can pick up from the environment.
So next time you open a jar of home-canned applesauce or green beans or take the can opener to a commercially canned fruit or vegetable product, you can feel good knowing that you are feeding your family food that is healthy for them. Stay food-safe (and healthy)!