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Canned Goodness?

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Canned goods are a standby for many consumers - something in the cupboard for an emergency: convenient, reliable, and occasionally the source of ready-made comfort food.

"Water-soluble and heat-sensitive nutrients are depleted during canning. "

Canned goods are a standby for many consumers - something in the cupboard for an emergency: convenient, reliable, and occasionally the source of ready-made comfort food. Canning was a technology familiar to most of our grandmothers and it was this familiarity that led to ready acceptance of commercially canned foods in Canada and the United States.

The Bad Guys

The liberal use of salt and sugar in canned goods has concerned consumers for decades, especially those with high blood pressure and diabetes. To their credit, manufacturers have tried to lessen the use of these ingredients or offer low-salt or sugar-free alternatives. The use of preservatives, artificial colourings, and flavourings also seems to be in decline - a positive trend given their associated health risks. Unfortunately, flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) are still commonly used in canned foods, particularly soups and sauces. Hydrogenated fats and oils (trans-fatty acids) are best avoided, given their negative effect on cardiovascular health and the reports linking them to of a host of health concerns ranging from cancer to macular degeneration.

A Fishy Story

Some manufacturers use a two-stage cooking process when canning fish such as tuna and salmon. This involves cooking the product on racks first, then packing the cans and cooking again. This has a significant impact on the essential fatty acids (EFAs or heart- healthy oils) in the product. Most of the EFAs drain off in the first stage of the process. Products that are processed solely in the can retain most of their EFAs (up to 25 times more than in the two-stage process). Contact the manufacturer of your preferred brand to determine which method is used.

Possible Contaminants

Although some manufacturers argue that canned products are as nutritious as fresh, comparative nutritional information on canned versus fresh products is difficult to come by. Beneficial enzymes in fruits and vegetables, fragile coenzymes, and water-soluble vitamins are the most likely to be adversely affected by the canning process. However, tomatoes, beans, and lentils don’t appear to suffer much as a result of canning. Manufacturers that emphasize minimal processing and the freshest raw materials are the most desirable.

Are Canned Foods as Nutritious as Fresh?

Although some manufacturers argue that canned products are as nutritious as fresh, comparative nutritional information on canned versus fresh products is difficult to come by. Beneficial enzymes in fruits and vegetables, fragile coenzymes, and water-soluble vitamins are the most likely to be adversely affected by the canning process. However, tomatoes, beans, and lentils don’t appear to suffer much as a result of canning. Manufacturers that emphasize minimal processing and the freshest raw materials are the most desirable.

Best Choices

Read the label, compare ingredients, and chose those products with the least salt, sugar, preservatives, artificial flavours, colourings, and MSG. Better yet, buy organic. Organic manufacturers are committed to canning their products at the peak of freshness, with the fewest additives. Better for you and better for the environment.

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