I’m sure it’s no surprise that incorporating fruits and vegetables is a great way to establish a healthy eating style. In fact, nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) of Americans agree that consuming fruits and vegetables is an important part of maintaining a healthy eating style. However, fewer than one in 10 (8.9 percent) of us meet the recommendations for vegetable intake, and only 13.1 percent meet the recommendations for fruit.
There are several reasons why we aren’t consuming more fruits and vegetables, but the number one reason given is directly related to cost. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of Americans believe that fruits and vegetables are just too expensive. Now, it’s true that fresh fruits and vegetables can be pricey, but what about canned fruits and veggies?
Comparing the cost of canned produce to fresh produce reveals that canned options are much more affordable than fresh, so why aren’t more people buying canned? When asked, 35 percent of consumers said that canned vegetables are less healthy than fresh vegetables. But are they really less healthy?
Looking at the nutrition information between canned and fresh green beans revealed that the nutritional content is pretty similar between the two. However, one of the primary differences is sodium content, with canned green beans having more than fresh vegetables. Sodium is used in canned foods to “enhance flavor and texture, prevent microbial growth, and increase shelf life.”
Due to the health concerns associated with high sodium intake, many of us are steering away from foods that contain high amounts of sodium. Fortunately, low-sodium options exist for many foods, including canned vegetables. You can also reduce the sodium content of canned vegetables by draining and rinsing with water prior to cooking. This can reduce sodium by as much as 41 percent.
Canned fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with “higher-quality diet, lower body weight, and lower blood pressure.” Canned vegetables have just as much nutritional value as fresh vegetables and can taste just as good. Canned vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and immediately canned, locking in flavor and nutrients.
If you are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, try canned options. They can save you time and money, and can contribute to a healthy eating style.
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Megan Meyer, PhD, contributed to this piece.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Canned fruits and vegetables are on par nutritionally with their fresh or frozen counterparts. For some produce, the nutrition in canned foods is even greater.
WHAT WE KNOW
Americans are not eating enough produce. Fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy diet as they provide many vitamins, minerals and essential plant nutrients for very few calories per serving. Canned fruits and vegetables are a convenient, tasty and nutritious way to boost intake of produce – and at a good value.
Excellent health is something everyone can attain. Everyday decisions impact your health in the long run, meaning the choices you make today will affect your health in the future.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A recent analysis by researchers at Michigan State University, published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, found that canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh and frozen.1 For canned tomatoes in particular, canning improves the content of B vitamins, vitamin E and carotenoids compared to fresh. Fiber in beans becomes more soluble through the canning process, and thus more useful to the human body. Fiber is one of the “nutrients of concern” as identified in the government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, meaning it is one sorely lacking in the American diet (average intake is about 50% of the recommended amount for fiber).
Additionally, a nationally representative survey of American adults found that adults and children who frequently eat canned foods (6 or more items over 2 weeks) have healthier eating habits compared to those who eat 1-2 canned food items in the same time period.2 This is indicated by:
- Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables and 17 essential nutrients including calcium and fiber – 2 shortfall nutrients according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Stronger Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores – A summary measure of 10 dietary components, including the 5 food categories from dietary guidelines, as well as saturated fat, total fat, sodium, cholesterol and amount of variety in diet. Higher scores correlate with better quality diets.3
As for the value of canned foods, canned produce can help American families stretch their grocery budget. While there was no clear delineation in price comparisons across fresh, frozen and canned fruit, the analysis found that canned vegetables can be half the cost of frozen and one-fifth the cost of fresh, with the most popular canned vegetables (corn, tomatoes, peas, and green beans) particularly less expensive than their fresh or frozen counterparts.1
Eat the fruits and vegetable you prefer whether canned, fresh, frozen, or dried. Canned foods simply make healthy eating easy. Not only does canned produce compare with fresh and frozen nutritionally, but canned foods generally help cut down on food preparation and make it easy to get healthy, home-cooked meals on the table fast. Because commercial canning is similar to home canning (just on a larger scale) and with produce picked at the peak of ripeness, you can feel confident that canned fruits, vegetables, and beans (like kidney beans) are nutritious, safe and full of flavor. Fill up your pantry – or “cantry™” – with your favorite canned produce to help you prepare nutritious, quick, everyday meals for your family more often while saving time and money.
Recipe > Slow-Cooker Ragu (by Cooking Channel’s Kelsey Nixon)
More Info, Recipes, Tips > CansGetYouCooking.com
1 Miller SR and Knudson WA. “Nutrition and Cost Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen, and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Published online 27 Feb. 2014. doi: 10.1177/1559827614522942. 2 The NPD Group’s Food Impact Profile, “Analyzing the Healthfulness of Canned Food Users’ Diets.” Can Manufacturers Institute, January 2014.
- Facts About Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
- Benefits of Using Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
- Remember to Check Sodium and Sugar on the Nutrition Facts Label
- Here’s how to pick the best produce of the bunch:
- Canned fruit, vegetables linked to better diet
- Choose Low-Salt and Low-Sugar Varieties
- Top tips for using tinned and frozen fruit and veg
- 7 reasons to use more tinned and frozen fruit and veg
- 2 tips to consider when shopping
- The peaches pack a punch
- 5 ways to use frozen and tinned fruit and veg
- Recipes for you to try:
Facts About Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice! All forms of fruits and vegetables count toward your daily goal of 5 or more servings each day. Using canned and frozen produce provides more variety and convenient packaging and requires little preparation, which makes them easy to serve!
- Most canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are processed within hours after harvesting, so their flavor is preserved and nutrient losses are minimal. The nutrient content is comparable to fresh.
- Depending on the produce item, canning and freezing may actually preserve the nutrient value and even increase the availability of some nutrients to the body.
- Studies show that recipes prepared with canned foods had similar nutritional values to those prepared with fresh or frozen ingredients.
Benefits of Using Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
- Canned foods are cooked prior to packaging, so they are recipe-ready.
- Canning locks in the nutrients at their peak of freshness, and, consequently, they have a long shelf life.
- Frozen foods require little preparation – the washing and slicing is already done.
- Including frozen and canned fruits and vegetables in your diet can increase variety, especially when some items may not be widely available as fresh.
- Depending on the time of year and the specific type of produce, purchasing canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can save you money, especially when they are not in season or if you find your fresh produce spoiling before you can eat it.
Remember to Check Sodium and Sugar on the Nutrition Facts Label
- Sodium is usually added to canned foods to preserve them so look for low-sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added labeled foods. Compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label, and choose the product with the lowest amount.
- Drain and rinse canned veggies to reduce sodium even more.
- Frozen vegetables with sauces and seasonings can have excess salt and added calories.
- Look for fruit that is canned in water, its own juice, or light syrup. If the fruit is canned in light syrup, drain and rinse before use.
- Make sure frozen fruits are 100% frozen fruits – no added sugars.
The question: Are frozen, canned and dried fruits as nutritious as fresh?
The answer: In the summer, locally grown fresh fruit provides maximum nutrition and taste. In the winter, though, the options are slim. When your choices are apples, oranges, grapefruit, bananas and more apples, adding a variety of fruit to your winter diet can be challenging.
Canned, frozen and dried fruits offer alternatives when the fresh stuff is out of season and, in many cases, convenience too. It’s quick to add frozen strawberries to a protein shake or throw a single-serving container of unsweetened applesauce into your lunch bag.
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In general, canned and frozen fruit provide similar amounts of vitamins and minerals compared to their fresh equivalents. Fruits are usually frozen or canned very soon after harvesting, so the vitamin and mineral content is preserved. Canned fruit will have lower amounts of vitamin C compared to fresh fruit, since the canning process depletes some of the vitamin. However, vitamin C levels remain constant throughout the shelf life of canned fruit.
They can also have disadvantages. Canned peaches and pears are slightly lower in fibre than their fresh counterparts because their peels have been removed. And canned fruit packed in syrup has extra sugar and calories that most of us don’t need. For instance, two peach halves canned in heavy syrup delivers 24 grams of added sugar (usually high-fructose corn syrup), or six teaspoons’ worth.
You can drain the liquid from canned fruit to reduce the sugar content. Better yet, buy canned fruit that is unsweetened and canned in its own juices or water.
Like fresh fruit, dried fruit provides fibre, vitamins and minerals. However dried fruit delivers smaller amounts of vitamin C and folate than fresh fruit due to losses that occur during drying.
The main drawback to dried fruit is the fact it contains more calories per serving than fresh fruit. That’s because most of its water – which gives fruit its bulk – has been removed. For example, one cup of grapes has 110 calories and 29 grams of naturally occurring sugar. The same serving of raisins (dried grapes) packs in 521 calories and 128 grams of sugar.
If you’re watching your calorie intake, keep your serving size of dried fruit to one quarter-cup. And be sure to choose dried fruit with no sugar added; dried sweetened cranberries, for example, contain seven teaspoons of added sugar per one quarter-cup.
Dried fruit may also be preserved with sulphite, which can trigger an allergic reaction in some people, especially those with asthma. If you’re sensitive to sulphites, read the label and avoid foods that contain them.
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Include a variety of fruit in your diet each day. Canada’s Food Guide advises adults consume seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Children and teenagers need four to eight daily servings, depending on age and gender. Although there’s no official guidance on how many of these daily servings should be fruit, I recommend that you eat at least four fruit servings (e.g. two cups of fresh fruit) per day.
One fruit serving is the equivalent of one medium-sized fresh fruit (e.g. an apple, orange or banana), half of a grapefruit, one quarter-cup of dried apricots (10 halves), one half-cup of berries or one quarter-cup raisins.
Leslie Beck, a Registered Dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She is a regular contributor to CTV News Channel.
Have you eaten a variety of fruits and vegetables today?
The good news is that all produce counts, which means canned, fresh and frozen varieties can help you reach your goal.
Here’s how to pick the best produce of the bunch:
Canned Fruits & Vegetables
Canned fruits and veggies are convenient to have in your pantry for times you can’t get to the store; they can even be kept at work (with a can opener) for an afternoon snack. Since they don’t expire quickly, you won’t waste money when buying canned veggies – which sometimes happens with fresh produce that goes bad.
- Watch for sodium: Sodium is usually added to canned foods to preserve them. Look for low-sodium, reduced-sodium or no-salt-added labeled foods. Compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label and choose the product with the lowest amount. Drain and rinse canned veggies to reduce sodium even more.
- Watch for added sugar: Look for fruit that’s canned in water, its own juice, or light syrup (drain and rinse).
- Delicious uses:
- Add drained cans of corn, tomatoes and pinto beans or any other vegetable to low-sodium chicken broth for a super-fast and filling vegetable soup.
- Use a blender, food processor or a fork to smash drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, northern beans, or any beans into a bean dip for baby carrots; add a little lemon juice and garlic powder for some zip.
- Serve canned fruit as a dessert topped with low-fat, no sugar-added yogurt; or top whole grain cereal with canned fruit.
Frozen Fruits & Vegetables
These are picked at the peak of ripeness and then flash frozen to preserve optimal nutrition. They last for several months in the freezer and can be a very economical choice.
- Watch for Sodium: Compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label and choose the product with the lowest amount. Sauces and seasonings can contain excess salt and add calories.
- Watch for added sugar: Choose 100% frozen fruits without added sugars.
- Delicious uses:
- When you boil pasta, throw in some frozen veggies at the end of the cooking time for added nutrients and variety.
- Whip up a smoothie of frozen fruit, nonfat or low-fat milk and yogurt.
- Mix frozen berries into baked goods and oatmeal.
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
Fresh fruits & vegetables are easy, portable choices. Whenever you leave the house, get into the habit of stashing a fresh snack in your purse or backpack; think: apple, orange, banana, grapes or baby carrots. These snacks will keep you energized and avoid less-healthy snacks at vending machines.
- Look for Seasonal Choices: Your heart-healthy recipes will taste even better with produce that’s in season.
- Delicious uses:
- Always top sandwiches with extra vegetables.
- Serve cut-up veggies with hummus or a ”light” dip for a healthy snack.
- Serve a colorful fruit salad for dessert.
- Add pureed fruits and veggies to sauces, smoothies, soups and more for a boost of flavor and nutrients.
(Reuters Health) – Children and adults who eat canned fruits and vegetables might have a healthier diet than people who don’t, though they may also consume more calories and sugar, a recent U.S. study suggests.
Canned vegetables are displayed at a Walmart store in Secaucus, New Jersey, November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Researchers analyzed data collected from 2001 to 2010 from almost 42,000 American children and adults, scoring the overall quality of their diets based their consumption of these foods as well as whole grains, dairy, protein, seafood and limited amounts of salt, sugars and empty calories.
Adults who consumed canned fruits and vegetables had an average diet quality score of 49 on a scale of 0 to 100, compared with 47.4 for their peers who didn’t eat these foods. For children, eating these canned goods was linked to an average diet score of 45.8, compared with 43.3 without these foods.
About 11% of these individuals ate canned vegetables and fruits on any given day. Overall, these people tended to consume higher amounts of certain nutrients as well as more calories, sugar and fat, according to the study online November 23 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“By consuming fruits and vegetables, one may consume fewer foods that have lower nutritional value,” said study co-author Marjorie Freedman of San Jose State University in California.
“Thus, it makes sense that those who consume canned fruits and vegetables – most likely in conjunction with other types of fruits and vegetables – would have higher intake of certain nutrients and higher quality diets,” Freedman added by email.
The study was funded by the Canned Food Alliance, a consortium of steelmakers, can manufacturers, food processors and others.
While the study did find a higher quality diet linked to canned fruits and vegetables, it also set out to assess whether eating these things might be linked to a healthier weight or blood pressure. But weight, waist circumference and blood pressure were similar whether or not people consumed canned fruits and vegetables.
Children and adults who ate canned vegetables and fruits had similar levels of salt and added sugars in their diets, the study found.
Kids whose diets included these canned items also consumed more protein, vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium.
The study wasn’t designed to see whether canned fruits and veggies might be healthier than fresh or frozen alternatives.
The researchers admit that they only asked about cans, not jars, boxes, bags or other containers, and so may have underestimated the amount of processed fruits and vegetables consumed in the study.
The survey also relied on people to accurately report on what they consumed in the previous 24 hours, which might not be a complete picture of their eating habits on a typical day.
It’s also important to bear in mind that from a nutritional perspective, not all canned goods are created equal, noted Kevin Comerford, a researcher affiliated with the University of California, Davis, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“While there may be some overlap, processed foods are not synonymous with canned foods,” Comerford said by email. “Canned fruits and vegetables are better than no fruits or vegetables. Many canned fruits and vegetables can even be considered comparable to fresh options.”
It’s also possible that people who ate canned fruits and vegetables also ate more servings of fresh and frozen produce, noted Lauren Ptomey, a researcher at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City who wasn’t involved in the study.
When consumers opt for canned alternatives, Ptomey added by email, they should look for products with little or no added salt or sugars, and drain and rinse them before consumption.
“What this study is saying is that by consuming canned fruits and vegetables you may increase the total amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet,” Ptomey said. “It is in no way implying that canned is better for you than fresh or frozen.”
J Acad Nutr Diet 2015.
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Choose Low-Salt and Low-Sugar Varieties
The American Dietetic Association weighed in on the fresh versus canned debate in a statement released in January of 2006, noting that “canned fruits and vegetables are good substitutes for fresh produce and sometimes may be healthier.”
“Fresh produce is nutritionally better when it is used within a few days of picking,” the statement read. “Canned produce is picked and canned at its peak, so even though the heating process destroys some vitamins, the majority of the nutrients remain.”
The statement further noted that canned tomatoes, corn, and carrot products provide higher amounts of some (antioxidant) phytochemicals than their fresh counterparts as a result of the canning process.
The ADA recommended choosing canned products with little added salt or sugar.
Tufts University nutritionist Alice Lichtenstein, ScD, tells WebMD that while most canned vegetables are loaded with salt, salt-free versions are usually also available.
“You can also rinse your canned vegetables off, and choose fruits packed in their own juice,” she says.
Lichtenstein points out that canned and frozen fruits and vegetables give people the opportunity to eat a variety of healthy produce year-round.
“The quality and variety of frozen fruits, especially, has really improved in recent years,” she says. “These products can be very good, the cost is often better than fresh, and you don’t have to worry about seasonal availability and spoilage.”
Top tips for using tinned and frozen fruit and veg
We all know we should be eating more fruit and veg, we’ve heard the message often enough, but it’s still something we all struggle to do on a daily basis. It’s especially tricky if you regularly find the only fruit in your fruit bowl is a bruised banana or the only vegetable to hand is a mushy cucumber stuck to the back of the salad drawer in the fridge!
Using frozen and tinned fruit and veg can be a good way to get around this problem, to help bump up your daily intake of these nutritious foods and boost your five a day, too.
Tinned and frozen fruit and veg can be just as healthy as fresh and roughly the same quantity (80g) counts as a portion towards your five a day.
7 reasons to use more tinned and frozen fruit and veg
- Less waste: simply take out what you need from the freezer and put the rest of the packet back in for another time. Any leftover tinned foods can be placed in a suitable container and kept in the fridge and eaten according to the manufacturer’s guidance.
- Less waste 2: unlike fresh fruit and veg, their tinned and frozen counterparts keep for much longer. Nutrients don’t degrade as quickly either.
- No preparation required: the items are washed, sliced or peeled ready to be instantly used, making it an easy way to bump up your fruit and veg intake with very little effort.
- Save money: they are often cheaper compared to fresh, especially if you are buying out of season.
- Access all year round: you’re not limited by the seasons and can have any fruit and veg at any time of year.
- Carb-counting help: if you count your carbs, you may find it easier to work out how much carbohydrate you are eating as this will be indicated on the food label.
- Buy in bulk and store: you can buy them when they are on offer and store for long periods of time.
2 tips to consider when shopping
- Avoid fruit that’s tinned in syrup – even the light syrup has a lot of sugar.
- Avoid veg tinned in salt water (or brine) – too much salt raises you blood pressure, which puts you at risk of cardiovascular disease.
The peaches pack a punch
We compared two 250g tins of peaches – one in fruit juice and one in syrup. We’ve listed the nutritional breakdown of both here.
The peaches in juice scored lower for calories and sugars. You can reduce your sugar intake even further if you drain the juice off. Both cost around 65p per tin – so you can have a cheap, easy and healthy pudding quite easily. You can add low-fat yogurt, creme fraiche or light ice cream for a delicious treat.
5 ways to use frozen and tinned fruit and veg
Most of us are familiar with the usual frozen mixed veg and peas on offer in the freezer section and the tins of mushy peas down the supermarket aisle – but take a closer look and you might be surprised about what you can now buy…
- You can buy large plastic tubs of frozen summer fruits such as raspberries, pineapples, mangoes and cherries relatively cheaply. These can be whizzed into a smoothie, added to porridge, pancakes, yogurt or simply eaten as a delicious, healthy pudding.
- Diced onions, sliced mushrooms, sliced leeks, sliced peppers, stir-fry mix, swede and carrot mix and Mediterranean veg are all readily available. Use in dishes just as you would their fresh equivalents, simply follow the cooking instructions on the packet. Using frozen veg is an easy way of bumping up your veg intake in dishes such as chilli con carne, stews and curries. If you sometimes lack the motivation, and time, to cook from scratch and tend to reach for a ready meal or call for a takeaway – this is a great, easy calorie-saving alternative.
- As well as the usual tinned peaches and pineapple most of us are familiar with, you can now buy tinned breakfast mix, lychees, guava, mango and summer fruits, which are often cheaper compared to buying the fruit fresh and make a great start to your day.
- Tinned veg now available includes leaf spinach, artichokes and green beans.
- When cooking any fruit and veg, try to steam or microwave rather than boiling in a lot of water to reduce loss of water-soluble vitamins.
Recipes for you to try:
If you want some ideas on how to use frozen or tinned fruit and veg, check out some of the recipes on Enjoy Food’s recipe finder.
Try this delicious apricot crunch made with tinned apricots.
Use a bag of frozen carrot and swede, to make this carrot and swede mash. A nutritious, quick and easy side dish.