Are canned foods healthy? This is million dollar question. Canned foods and drinks were first established in the 1960s. Their consumption is common in diverse societies due to their long shelf life, affordability and convenience and are easy to prepare.
Inasmuch as we prefer convenience due to our lifestyles today, sometimes convenience may come at a high price, putting our health at risk as a result.
Canning, among other food packaging such as plastic containers, is widespread and has contributed to Bisphenol A/ BPA exposure among human population.
BPA in canned foods can leach into the food contained in the packaging according to research. BPA is a chemical used by food companies for production of plastic materials ( polycarbonate) and epoxy resins used in lining metal food and beverage cans.
It has been found that BPA has harmful effects on the hormonal system and/or endocrine function and has been associated with the risk of breast and prostate cancer among other health issues according to Breast Cancer Prevention and Partners.
“Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children” says Mayo Clinic.
Research reveals that canned foods are found to contribute to BPA exposure in the human population. “Although the BPA is present everywhere, two-thirds is attributed to diet while one third is unaccounted for”
“BPA has been detected in the urine of 92.6 percent of the American population” Canned foods such as fruits, vegetables, pasta, and soup are associated with a higher concentration of BPA”
Is it safe at all to consume canned foods given the harmful effects of BPA? Environmental working group, EWG, conducted an independent study to test BPA in canned food and have made recommendations that FDA and EPA must act quickly to set safety levels for BPA exposure based on the latest science on the low dose toxicity of the chemical.
FDA, on the other hand, approved the safety levels of BPA in food packaging and containers and has banned the use of polycarbonate resins in baby bottles, sippy cups and epoxy resins as coatings in packaging for infant formula. Research is currently ongoing.
Does Canning Retain Nutrients in Foods
According to research canned foods are considered nutritious alternatives to fresh foods.
While the nutritional value in water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin c and b vitamins is reduced during the canning process, the remaining nutrients are preserved as opposed to those in fresh produce due to exposure to oxygen and bacterial threats.
Nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, K are not affected by the process of canning.
The canning process preserves the nutritional value in nutrient-dense foods compared to fresh foods”
Sodium Content in Canned Foods
Canned foods especially vegetables and legumes are high in sodium content mostly around 500 mg or more depending on the brand.
Experts say too much sodium is not good for your heart as it promotes hypertension. Excessive sodium intake reduces blood calcium levels which may lead to the formation of calcium kidney stones and osteoporosis.
It helps to always check out the nutritional fact label label on the product before any purchase or you can always rinse off the salt from the food item before consumption.
Sugar Content in Canned Foods
Most canned fruits come in high sugar content due to the added sugar. Eating too much sugar can raise your blood sugar levels over time and it’s not good for your health.
“Excess sugar also contributes to widespread inflammation and even leads to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes” Excess sugar can be bad for your brain too”
According to American Heart Association, the recommended daily intake of sugar for adults is 25g for females ( six teaspoons) and 37.5g for males (9 teaspoons) While for children between 2 and 18 years is less than 6 teaspoons per day. Children under 2 are not allowed to drink or eat foods with added sugars.
Canned Foods and BPA
As mentioned above, BPA is used as coatings in food and beverage cans.
There’s an ongoing debate regarding BPA”s harmful effects on food and beverage cans and consensus has not been reached yet as there are different perspectives on the subject matter.
Various studies have been conducted to test BPA in canned foods and drinks and it has been found that canned foods do contribute to BPA exposure in humans.
FDA conducted an independent study and has approved the safety levels of BPA in food containers and packaging.
That said, to take precaution, you can always limit the intake of the canned foods and opt for fresh or frozen foods instead. Avoid cans that are dented, cracked, leaking and bulging.
Is Home Canned Foods Safe?
Home canned foods, along with fermented foods can lead to bacterial contamination, if it’s not done properly. This doesn’t mean that it cannot happen commercially but the cases are rare.
This type of bacterium is called clostridium botulinum and can lead to a condition known as botulism which is lethal in its nature. Caution needs to be exercised during preparation, says World Health Organization.
Despite their disadvantage, canned foods are nutritious alongside fresh foods but water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin c and b vitamins tend to lose their nutritional value during processing and the remaining nutrients remain stable over time.
The fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, K are not affected by the canning process.
Some fruits lose their fiber content and other phytochemicals as the skins are peeled off and their disadvantage are the high sugar and sodium content in canned vegetables and beans.
It helps to check the nutritional information on the product label for better options in terms of sodium and sugar content. Otherwise, you can rinse off your canned beans or vegetables to reduce sodium.
Some BPA exposure is attributed to canned foods and eating dented, leaking, cracked and bulging canned foods may expose you to some bacterial threats along with BPA contamination.
It may be time-consuming but cooking your fresh foods from scratch may be a better option. To keep them refrigerated use glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic ones.
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