Food preservation methods have been essential to the development of human societies.
Not since the discovery of cooking has a food preparation technique been more significant than long term storage.
We have devised many ways of trying to keep our food fresh and edible for longer, from modifying its chemistry, all the way to freezing it solid.
But one method of food preservation has managed to more or less maintain a food’s natural state while allowing it to be kept for exceptionally long periods.
That method is canning.
Canning involves sealing food away in a sterilized, usually metallic container.
The food itself is free of contaminants meaning the internal environment has the perfect conditions to prevent spoiling of food, no matter how naturally perishable it is.
Canning was invented by Peter Durand and was first commercially applied in 1912 by Thomas Kensett.
Canning was never aimed at preserving or enhancing good nutritional values, it was just a way to make food last longer, making it better for consumers and more commercially viable for producers.
It is today that we are starting to discover that some canned foods are actually healthy, and some amongst these, seem to be more nutritious in certain aspects as canned foods than their fresh counterparts.
Let’s take a look.
Spinach is an amazingly healthy leafy vegetable.
Packed with fiber, vitamin C and iron, this is one you should be eating regularly.
The canning process actually sees certain brands of spinach contain more nutrients such as vitamin C than fresh, unpreserved variants.
Unlike their more traditional and famous canned cousin, baked beans, black beans keep it simple and are presented as nothing more than cooked and ready to eat black beans.
These beans are packed with fiber, which is good for your digestive and metabolic health.
This helps them support a variety of health functions like maintenance of bone mineral density and fluid balance.
The canning of black beans preserves their nutrient integrity, adding awesome convenience to great nutrition.
What list of healthy canned foods would be complete without tuna? The answer is, none.
Try and source tuna from certified sustainable fishery brands and only wild-caught tuna for that matter.
It’s also worth considering that just like most seafood, tuna contains traces of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that can pose a risk with excess regular consumption.
Another canned fish on the list, pilchards are in fact sardines.
They have a fishier flavor than tuna and are much smaller.
These fish have a lower occurrence of mercury and a higher omega 3 profile than tuna.
They often come canned in a processed tomato-like sauce, which might be off putting for many.
You can get them unadulterated in vegetable oil or brine.
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We saved the best for last because when it comes to healthy canned foods, canned tomatoes are the king.
That’s not because they are the healthiest food on this list.
It’s because of the nutritional boost tomatoes undergo once they are canned.
Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene. It is responsible for their red color.
Lycopene is typically locked within the cell walls of tomato but is released in increasing quantities the more these walls are broken down.
In cooked and canned tomatoes or tomato puree, the walls are so broken down that tomatoes in this form have far more health benefits than their fresh, whole versions.
Canned foods are by reputation, not that healthy. A lot of them, especially canned fruit, are swimming in additives and excess sugars and salt.
The quality of a canned food also really boils down to brand, with some brands simply relying on quantity over quality to sell their products, while others take the time and effort to source good foods and package them in a wholesome way.
So, can you include canned foods regularly in your diet? YES, YOU CAN!