10 Reasons to Enjoy Canned Food
By Azmina Govindji RD MBDA, Consultant Nutritionist & Registered Dietitian
A store cupboard essential for centuries, canned food has an epic history of providing tasty meals for all the family. Why has this legendary food staple stood the test of time? There are a whole host of reasons to tuck into canned food, but TV dietitian and expert, Azmina Govindji, has picked out her top ten to show just why canned food is just as relevant today as it has ever been.
- Nutrients locked in
If you think canned foods have been stripped of their nutrition, then here’s some good news. Many canned fruit and vegetables are packed within hours of harvest, and the canning process can lock in nutrients(1). Canning is simply a way of helping us to enjoy food at an extended shelf life. You can get about the same amount of important nutrients like vitamin A and E, minerals and fibre, as you would from the same food if it were fresh or frozen(2).
- Meals in minutes
Busy, hectic lifestyle? No need to rely on takeaways. Canned food can help you to whip up a tasty meal in no time. For example, try flavouring canned salmon with freshly chopped or dried dill, a squeeze of lemon and some black pepper. You can add this to cooked pasta, have it on toast, or roll it up in a tortilla wrap. Canned peas make a colourful accompaniment to most meals – and three heaped tablespoons count as one of your recommended five-a-day(3).
- Locking in the goodness
Often foods you may think are fresh have often been on shelves for a number of days and may lose some of their nutrients in the process. Canned fruit and vegetables can be packed within hours of harvest, so the natural flavours are locked in quickly. The heat used in the canning process destroys micro-organisms (4), so there is generally no need for preservatives. Canned food can help you to create convenient meals and snacks that are tasty, simple to prepare and good for you!
- Eat canned, eat better?
Sometimes there’s no fresh fruit and veg in the house, yet we know it’s important to have at least five-a-day – keeping canned varieties in your cupboard might encourage you to include them in your meals. So, as an example, if you’re having spaghetti Bolognese and there’s no salad in the fridge, simply open up a can of sweetcorn for a nutritious accompaniment. Get into the habit of adding canned pulses to minced meat dishes, casseroles and soups to easily increase your intake of fibre.
- Here comes the science bit…
The airtight seal and canning process means air can’t get in to spoil the food. This helps to retain its quality and keeps the food safe to eat for long periods of time. Canned foods are cooked in the can, and the amount of time depends on the food.
- Convenience in a can
We all live busy lifestyles, so you may not have time to chop vegetables or bake fish from scratch. And if you haven’t had a chance to go to the supermarket, canned food can come to the rescue! Canned food is easy to purchase, store and create a variety of tasty meals for all the family. As it has a long shelf life, it can be stored in your cupboard and used to whip up a speedy meal when the family is ravenous! Why not try canned fruit in juice as a quick and nutritious snack, and team it up with some yoghurt and granola if you’re especially hungry.
- Fish made simple
Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide (7) advises that we eat two portions of fish each week, one of which should be oily. Pick up canned salmon, mackerel or sardines for your “oily fish fix”, and try tuna for your other portion. Canned salmon flaked into a salad can add a protein boost to your meal, while canned tuna can be used to make a mean tuna pasta bake for the kids. Twice a week and you’re done!
- You can cut the salt and sugar
Some canned foods are available in reduced salt and sugar varieties, which is really handy for a health-conscious family. Prunes, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, mandarin – a wide range of refreshing and tasty fruits are all available canned with fruit juice – so you don’t have to go for syrup versions. And veg like peas, sweetcorn and kidney beans come canned in water rather than salted water. Choose a variety of foods so that you enjoy your favourites as part of a balanced diet.
- Protein boost
Canned beans, peas, tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel and meat can bring a speedy source of protein to your meals. Protein isn’t just for helping kids grow and develop – protein at any age helps maintain muscles as part of a balanced diet (8). Try throwing kidney beans into a salad, enjoy sardines with cracked black pepper on toast, or add your favourite canned beans to a can of soup to enrich. Canned food can be just as tasty as fresh and frozen, and these simple ideas can help make a nourishing meal in no time.
- On a budget?
Sometimes fresh foods can be a stretch on the weekly shopping spend; canned foods offer great value for money as they’re typically more affordable than fresh or frozen, so can help reduce your shopping bill (9). Adding canned vegetables to a stew can make a family meal go further, while a can of fish can make a really cost-effective lunch for two, and a can of fruit can be a tasty low budget treat for two with a dollop of yoghurt.
Azmina Govindji RD MBDA is a Consultant Nutritionist & Registered Dietitian and is an ambassador for Love Canned Food.
References (online sources accessed Jan 2017)
- Rickman, J. C., Bruhn, C. M. and Barrett, D. M. (2007), Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables II. Vitamin A and carotenoids, vitamin E, minerals and fiber. J. Sci. Food Agric., 87: 1185–1196. doi:10.1002/jsfa.2824. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jsfa.2824/abstract
- Freedman M.R. & Fulgoni V.L. 3rd. (2015). Canned Vegetable and Fruit Consumption is associated with Changes in Nutrient Intake and Higher Diet Quality in Children and Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2010. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. S2212-2672(15)01587-7.
- Canned Food Alliance. (2014). Diet Quality and Nutrient Intake Research. Available: http://www.mealtime.org/resources/diet-quality-and-nutrient-intake research.aspx. Last accessed 23rd May 2016.