Are Canned Foods Nutritious for My Family?

By Roberta Duyff, MS, RD, FAND
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Quick and convenient: more than 1,500 varieties of canned foods appear on today's supermarket shelves: traditional fare, along with a variety of nutritionally positioned products – for example, sodium-free, low-fat, no-added-sugar and others. Some benefits:

  • Long shelf life. Canned fruits and vegetables are preservative-free; the canning process (high temperatures and sterile containers) destroys organisms that would cause spoilage. Canned food remains safe as long as the container remains intact. Although most canned foods are coded with "use by" dates, you're wise to rotate them. Change your supply of canned products at least every other year.
  • Nutritious. Canned foods – and dishes made with canned ingredients – are as nutritious as cooked fresh, according to research, and perhaps more so if fresh aren't handled properly. Lycopene in canned tomatoes is more bioavailable than in uncooked fresh tomatoes.
  • Convenient, portable, quick. They're ready to eat. Canned soups, stews and vegetables only need heating since they're already cooked in the can.
  • Tamper resistance. Cans are very tamper-resistant. Any opening is clearly evident. Rust spots on the outer surface or dents don't affect the contents of the can as long as the can doesn't bulge or leak.
  • Food safety. Be sure to use canned goods immediately after opening. Leftovers are perishable and need to be refrigerated in a clean, sealed container to retain taste and nutritional quality.

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