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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.

Take Away

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.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331

https://www.fda.gov/food/-additives-petitions/questions-answers-bisphenol-bpa-use-food-contact-applications

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517017

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724131604.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003675

Thank you for finding the time to read the article. If you find it useful kindly leave your comments, opinions or questions below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Maggie

24 Replies to “Are Canned foods Healthy?”

  1. Though I mostly buy fresh or frozen produce, I do use tinned tomatoes. I’ve never heard of bpa and glad I read this article. I didn’t realise some vitamins are destroyed during canning, but always rinse tinned chickpeas to remove any salt or sugar.

    1. Hey Kathy
      Thanks for commenting on this article. Yes water-soluble vitamins like vitamin c and B complex vitamin quickly lose their nutrient value when they are exposed to heat, air and sunlight.But food sources that are densely rich in those nutrients retain the remaining nutrients over time depending on the storage and exposure.

  2. Greetings! Wow this was very informative. I really enjoyed reading this article. Canned food is something my mom always told me had way to much sodium in general but your info really brought a lot of light to the situation. Thank you so much for the informative article.

    1. Sure Maggie, I have always been sceptical of canned foods since I was young because I was taught they’re not entirely healthy. There was a story that made me even more sceptical of canned foods. That if you open a canned fish and live it a bit longer before taking it out of the can, it becomes poisonous and it can actually kill you if you eat it later on. True??? Otherwise I learned a lot from your article. It is an eye opener, more especially with regard to BPA. I knew nothing about it and there is a lot more I have learnt.

      Thanks

  3. Thank you for this excellent article Maggie. It has certainly shone a light on canned foods. It’s good to know that some vitamins are not lost in the canning process. There have been some scares reported recently in France where baby foods have led to some disasters. I wonder if any of this is due to the materials used in canning. It seems like a subject difficult to get to the bottom of. Thanks for lighting the way; great article.

    1. Hi Steve
      Thank you so much for your comment and for finding the article useful. About the scandal in France, I understand it’s the case of the bacteria called salmonella. I hear that “the second biggest dairy-producing company in the world was doing some factory renovations in December and that’s how the baby food product
      got bacterial contamination”. It seems a recall was made to stop selling those products until further notice. Thanks again for stopping by. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  4. I found your post helpful and informative. I avoid canned products because of the massive amounts of sodium and sugar that are added to the canning process. Most people don’t realize how much sodium and sugar are added to canned products for preservation and a long shelf life. The ease of use of something canned tends to override the downside of the potential health risk. As a Crohn’s sufferer I am highly sensitive to anything artificial and eat everything fresh which requires a bit more discipline and focus. Keep preaching the message the “Healthy Living Matters.”

    1. Awesome, Stacy.

      That’s well-articulated. Discipline is a way to go especially in the world we live in today. Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it.

  5. I used to use a lot more canned goods, especially soups for sauces and things. I’ve moved towards making things from scratch now because of the sodium content of a lot of canned goods. I still use tomato products from cans as this is just simply more convenient. I now prefer frozen veggies if I’m not going to do fresh stuff.

    1. Good shot Tara. According to research while some of the nutrients like a vitamin c and b vitamins are reduced in value, the antioxidants such as carotenoid/lycopene in tomatoes increases upon the canning process.

      Thanks you for stopping by and reading the article.

      Maggie

  6. Thank you for this article. I was unaware of BPA being present in canned food.

    I usually use fresh or frozen but at times have used a canned version especially when aboard our sailboat. I will certainly be rethinking my options here.

    I do home can vegetables from my own garden but I am very particular about sanitizing all equipment and mason jars. I have had no issues with any food contamination.

    Thanks for writing this informative article .

    Best wishes to you.

    1. Hi Richard.

      Thank you for stopping by and making an input in this conversation. You are the lucky one with your own garden. Keep it up.

      Maggie

  7. I have seen the “BPA Free” labels on bottles, cups, etc. but had no idea there was BPA used in the canning process for foods! Thank you for the heads up!

    1. Hi Randi

      Bpa is not used in the canning process but the can itself is coated with BPA. BPA is used as lining on metal food and drink cans. Research reveals that BPA can migrate into the food product and can be detrimental to health. The topic is currently controversial and research is ongoing. Thanks for stopping by and reading the article.

  8. Yeah, I had heard of BPA but I am always weary of it, so this was good to read. I do plan on using less canned food and will switch to boxed soups now if those don’t have BPA in it.

  9. It must be fate that I stumbled upon your article today, I have been lately wondering if canned food are healthy for us? It seems most of our food if you don’t buy it fresh is either in plastic or cans, and I really wonder if either one is safe for us to be eating regularly.

    Great facts on canned foods

    Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff
      It helps to always exercise caution when choosing packaged foods. Polycarbonate plastics and cans are made with materials containing BPA. Although there are those that are said to be BPA free. Rather look for some packaging made with glass or boxes like those of dairy and/ or milk. It also said that even the thermal receipts you get when making a purchase contain BPA which easily rubs onto your hands. Washing your hands immediately after handling those receipts will help.

  10. This is very interesting! I always wondered about it and feel like there are always mixed opinions on this. In my opinion, I really like canned foods from time to time and it doesn’t hurt. Although I am worried mostly about the added sugar. Do you think it strongly depends on the brand too?

    1. Hi Sarah
      Yes different brands have different sodium content on their food products hence it helps to read the nutritional fact label on the product to make a better choice. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Very Informative Article. My Father Used To Love Eating Things From Cans and he Passed Away From Prostate Cancer in 2004. It Didn’t Come To My Attention That His Prostate Cancer Could Have Been Attributed To Eating So Many Canned Foods.
    Vitamin C and B Are Reduced During The Canning Process Is Not Good At All As We Need These For Healthy Nerves Etc. Thank You For This Article. I am BookMarking This Website.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more Sharon on the reduction of the value of some nutrients hence it’s necessary to diversify our diets. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

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