Look Closely at Canned Foods
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Now: Guest Post!
Now: Guest Post!
Today, Everyday Health dares us both to take a closer look at canned food. I, myself, don't use canned foods a ton, but I do regularly use canned tomato paste, tomatos, coconut milk, fish, and, occasionally, other vegetables like mushrooms and hearts of palm. Hm, actually, maybe it's more often than I realized!
I've often avoided the issue of what's lurking in those cans, and what from the cans is leeching into my food. But now, we've got some answers...
By: Hillary Monroe, MS RD LDN, Registered Dietitian and writer for Everyday Health Calorie Counter.
In any given grocery store or corner bodega we find canned goods aplenty. It seems like anything and everything can be canned, from the typical soup, green beans, or tuna fish to whole chickens and even cheese. It’s hard to believe but the canning process dates back to the late 18th century in France. Napoleon needed a way to feed soldiers on the front without the food would spoiling quickly, and canning fit the bill. Since then, the basic principles of canning have not changed much: food is sealed in a jar to keep out the microorganisms that can cause it to spoil, and when ready to eat, just heat up. Sometimes these canned foods can get a bad reputation but with so many uses and benefits, it’s worth taking a trip down the canned foods aisle:
• Convenience and shelf life. The very nature of the canning process, using high temperatures and sterile containers to destroy organisms that would cause spoilage, extends the shelf life of food. Canned foods remain safe as long as the container remains intact, so you can keep them handy in your pantry for when you need them.
A great addition to any weeknight meal – try adding beans or canned veggies to any soup or casserole or try cracking open a can of fruit packed in juice for a healthy and tasty snack. Or, try this guilty pleasure (but crowd pleaser) buffalo chicken dip: mix canned chicken, light cream cheese, red hot sauce and blue cheese dressing. Top with crumbled blue cheese and bake until bubbly.
Avoid cans that are dented, particularly at the top or bottom and look out for cans that are bulging or bloated. This could mean the presence of organism, likely Clostridium botulinum, which causes a serious foodborne illness.
• Better Nutrition. Canned foods are as nutritious as fresh ones, and some foods become more nutritious when canned and heated. For example, lycopene, a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant, is more available to your body from cooked tomatoes. Try it: use canned tomatoes to make your own pasta sauce – tasty and good for you!
Safe or unsafe? Canned foods have come under fire for a few reasons, and worth mentioning:
First, the safety of canned fish, particularly tuna, is raised due to mercury levels. There are two kinds of canned tuna: chunk light and chunk white. The chunk white comes from albacore, a larger species of tuna, and samples show that mercury levels can be almost three times higher than those of the smaller tuna, skipjack, used in most canned light tuna. If you're concerned, try salmon, lower on the food chain so less risk of toxins.
Secondly, some studies have linked the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been used for years in clear plastic bottles and food-can liners, to causing health problems. Because the FDA has not yet declared a safe exposure level to BPA, some prefer to avoid it altogether. You can choose BPA free cans or glass jars or vacuum sealed packages.
Overall, benefits of being inexpensive and convenient make canned foods a great addition to any kitchen. I say don’t be shy and pick up some canned or jarred goods for dinner this week!
Thanks, Hillary! I'm definitely a fan of the convenience and shelf life, myself, but will be sure to opt for BPA-free from here on out.
Do you use a lot of canned foods? Got any brands you know to be on the safer side?