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Are canned vegetables and fruit good for you?

Introduction

Canned vegetables and fruits are a staple in many people’s pantries. They provide a convenient and often affordable way to get your daily servings of produce. But there are some concerns around the nutritional value and safety of canned produce. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of canned vegetables and fruits and help you determine if they should have a place in your diet.

Pros of Canned Produce

Here are some of the benefits of choosing canned fruits and veggies:

  • Convenience – Canned produce is pre-washed, chopped, and ready to eat or cook with. This saves a lot of prep time in the kitchen.
  • Affordability – Canned produce is often less expensive than fresh. Especially out of season, you can get canned produce at a lower cost per serving.
  • Extended shelf life – Unopened cans can last 2-5 years. Once opened, canned produce will last around 7-10 days in the fridge.
  • Accessibility – Canned produce is available year-round and easy to find at any grocery store.
  • Nutrient retention – The canning process allows produce to be picked and packed at peak ripeness. Heat from canning inactivates enzymes that cause nutrient loss.

Cons of Canned Produce

However, there are some downsides to canned fruits and veggies to consider:

  • High sodium – Canned vegetables often have a lot of added salt, with a 1/2 cup serving providing 15-30% of the recommended daily value.
  • Loss of water-soluble vitamins – Canning leads to more loss of vitamin C and the B vitamins compared to fresh produce.
  • Texture and taste – Canned produce can have a softer, mushier texture and metallic flavor from being in the can.
  • Presence of bisphenol A (BPA) – Some cans are lined with BPA, an industrial chemical that may have hormone-disrupting effects.
  • Higher price for low sodium – Seeking out no salt added canned options costs more.

Nutrition Comparison of Fresh vs. Canned Produce

How does the nutrition content of canned fruits and veggies stack up against their fresh counterparts? Here is a comparison for some popular choices:

Produce Fresh (per 1 cup) Canned (per 1 cup)
Green beans Vitamin C: 17% DV Vitamin C: 14% DV
Carrots Vitamin A: 428% DV Vitamin A: 210% DV
Corn Folate: 12% DV Folate: 15% DV
Peaches Vitamin C: 17% DV Vitamin C: 15% DV
Tomatoes Lycopene: 22 mg Lycopene: 27 mg

As you can see, water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and folate have modest reductions from fresh to canned forms. However, antioxidants like lycopene in tomatoes are higher from canned products. This demonstrates that canning doesn’t universally degrade nutrients.

Tips for Choosing Healthy Canned Produce

If you do opt for canned fruits and vegetables, follow these tips for making the healthiest choices:

  • Seek out low sodium or no salt added – Rinseregular cans to remove some sodium.
  • Look for BPA-free cans to avoid chemical exposure.
  • Choose fruit canned in juice over heavy syrup.
  • Include a variety – Rotate different types of canned produce.
  • Rinse before use – This removes excess sodium and improves texture.
  • Compare cost vs. frozen – Frozen may be cheaper and retain more nutrients.

The Bottom Line

Canned produce can be a nutritious and handy kitchen staple when you choose wisely. Seek low sodium options in BPA-free packaging, rinse before using, and incorporate a variety of fruits and veggies. Balance canned produce with fresh, frozen, and other forms as well. Moderation is key to gain the benefits of canned produce while limiting downsides like excess sodium. With mindful selection and preparation, canned produce can be an asset to a healthy diet.