Canned Foods – Friend or Foe?
I have some very exciting news! February is canned food month! Woo-hoo! Seriously, I would love to know who makes up these ridiculous holidays. However, in light of that irresistible need to celebrate canned foods, I thought it would be nice to shed some light on those cans.
Canning food has been around since, I don’t know, glass jars were invented? It’s been a historic way to preserve food. It allows for families to stretch their growing season and eat their farm fresh food all winter long. And then big business got involved and started canning anything and everything from green beans to SPAM.
Pros of Canned Foods:
Canned Food is Fresher: Canneries are usually located very close to large scale farms. Once the food is harvested, it goes straight to the cannery and is canned. The FDA says it is even more nutritious than fresh food. “Fresh foods begin losing vitamins as soon as they are picked, and often sit in warehouses or in transit for as long as two weeks before they find their way into the market to sit even longer waiting to be purchased.” (source)
Cons of Canned Foods:
The Dreaded BPA: Nearly all cans are lined with the controversial toxic chemical called BPA or Bisphenol A. “In rodents, BPA is associated with early sexual maturation, altered behavior, and effects on prostate and mammary glands. In humans, BPA is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and male sexual dysfunction in exposed workers.” (source) Plus, the more acidic the item – the more BPA is leaked out of the cans. This includes tomatoes, tomato based soups and sauces, canned citrus, and canned sodas. People at the most risk are nursing mothers and children.
Preservatives and Other Junk: Unfortunately, it is rare to find canned food that comes without some other processed chemical or preservative. Top offender: high levels of salt. Many companies have made an effort to reduce sodium and sugar because of their astronomically high levels of both. But, not all companies offer that option. Soups are the worst when it comes to lots of processed ingredients.
Pasteurized Food: Canned food is pasteurized to kill any food-borne illness. And unfortunately this kills off one-third to one-half of several vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A and C. Plus, for every year that a canned food item is on the shelf it will loose an additional 5% to 20% of those vitamins. There are still enough vitamins to make canned food nutritious, but you do loose some with pasteurization.
Tips for Purchasing Canned Foods:
Buy BPA Free – This goes for canned food, and plastic containers. Don’t assume that all organic food cans are BPA free. Many are not. You may have to turn the can around to find if it says “This can made without the use of BPA” if it is not prominently displaced on the front.
Don’t Buy Canned Tomatoes – Canned tomatoes are extremely acidic and will leach more BPA into the food. Instead buy your tomatoes or tomato sauce in glass jars. Also, put down those canned sodas, and opt for glass bottles if you must.
Learn to Can - Canning is one of my favorite things to do during the summer. You get to use food at the peak of its freshness, use glass jars, and have local food for the winter. Start with a simple water bath approach. If nothing else, learn to can tomatoes (I promise it’s easy).
As for me, I tend to always have a few cans on hand for whatever might arise. Thankfully, I just looked in my pantry to make sure I was practicing what I am preaching and all my cans were BPA free. Phew! I will always choose fresh food over canned food – but I make sure to buy the bulk of my food from a local farmer so I am getting the freshest option out there.
Do you see canned foods as a friend or foe?