For the last century, health myths have propagated throughout the world. One prominent myth is that canned food is not as good for you as fresh food. In fact, this is not true.
Part of the theory is that some fruits and vegetables are cooked at high heat before being canned, and many nutritionists assume this processing degrades all their vitamin, mineral, and fiber content.
Just the other day a Project Swole reader named Rav wrote:
“I have a question regarding canned beans. Is there any difference in the nutrient content between canned beans and soaking the beans yourself and cooking them?”
My response is as follows:
The reality is that while nutrients such as vitamin C are damaged by heat, some studies have found that several canned foods are actually equal in nutritional value to their frozen and fresh varieties, and in some cases canned foods are actually far better for you than fresh foods.
The Fresh Produce Timeline
Canned foods are often harvested and processed within 2-4 hours, capturing their nutrients, while fresh foods are not often all that fresh.
Consider this timeline from harvest to kitchen table:
1. Most of the time after harvest domestic food spends several days being sorted and packaged. 2. Refrigeration trucks then take several more days to deliver the product to a distribution center. 3. The produce sits around for a couple days before being shipped to the store. 4. Upon arriving at a store the food can still potentially sit around for a week or more before it is sold. 5. Once you buy it and bring it home, how long does it take you to eat it? 2 days? 4 days? More?…
Fluctuations in temperature, exposure to air and light, and time rob the produce of nutrients along the way to your mouth.
Canned Food Is Good For You
For example, canned pumpkin has 20 times as much vitamin A as fresh pumpkin because the intense heat of canning breaks the fruit’s beta carotene away from the protein to which it is normally bound. This makes it easier for the body to absorb, beta carotene being a precursor to vitamin a.
Canned Beans vs. Home Cooked Beans
As far as the canned beans go, they match home-cooked beans in terms of fiber and nutrients. Additionally, if you add canned bean to any of your favorite recipes, you should consider including the liquid or at least not rinsing the beans, since the liquid does contain some of the beans’ minerals, thiamin, and soluble fiber.