How healthy is it to eat canned food

Canned food: healthy or unhealthy?

Table of Contents

  1. This is how food comes into the can
  2. How Much Vitamins Are Preserved?
  3. Bisphenol-A: canned chemicals
  4. Salt, sugar and fat: what goes with vegetables and fruits in the can?
  5. Healthier alternatives
  6. Knowledge to take away

In 1851, a 38-year-old tin can caused a sensation at the World Exhibition in London: it was finally possible to preserve food for years without losing its taste. The way of preserving, discovered as early as 1804, became a trend in affluent society. For a while, whole meals were served from a can. And even today, canned food is the first choice if it has to last a long time and has to go quickly.

This is how food comes into the can

The preservation process has not changed since the world exhibition: Food is filled in cans, which are then sealed airtight. Food is preserved through high temperatures: Sterilized canned food is briefly heated to over 100 ° C, pasteurized canned food is heated to between 70 and 95 ° C. The higher a food is heated, the longer it can be kept.

How Much Vitamins Are Preserved?

A quick further processing after the harvest ensures that the vegetables stay as fresh as possible. In addition, short processing routes prevent major vitamin losses: the vegetables are briefly blanched and then put in the can together with a mixture of water and salt or sugar. This is hermetically sealed and pasteurized. The preserves protect the sensitive vitamins from the effects of oxygen and light. In the ready-to-eat state, the vitamin content is Canned vegetables therefore almost as high as with its prepared fresh conspecifics - provided that the pre-cooked canned contents are only heated briefly: Long cooking leaches the vegetables.

However, nutrient losses cannot be ruled out. Most of them are heat-sensitive and water-soluble Vitamins how vitamin C is affected. The vitamin C content of canned vegetables is usually lower than that of fresh varieties.

The example of tomatoes shows that canned products can also be a healthy alternative. A study by Stiftung Warentest showed that the red canned vegetables have a much higher content of the secondary plant substance lycopene compared to fresh tomatoes. This substance protects the cells from attack by free radicals and lowers the risk of cancer (1). Lycopene is completely independent of the preserves, even from fresh tomatoes, which our bodies can use better if they are cooked.

Heat-sensitive vitamins are partly lost through preservation, but rapid processing ensures low losses. The process makes certain botanicals more effective and their content is higher in doses than in fresh vegetables.

Bisphenol-A: canned chemicals

The insides of canned food are coated with plastic. The chemical bisphenol A, or BPA for short, is often used as the basis for its production. BPA is suspected of accumulating in the human body and affecting development and fertility. There are no reliable long-term studies on this yet, but the fact is that BPA migrates from the can coating into food and from there into our body. A large-scale trial in the USA measured whether and to what extent BPA can be detected in the human body after consuming food and beverages in doses. The result: BPA was detected in the test subjects' urine after just one canned meal a day (2).

The use of BPA in baby bottles has been banned since 2011, and Japan has banned BPA from all food packaging for 20 years. The situation is different in the EU: In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a new report on the assessment of health risks from the use of bisphenol A in food packaging. Key message: BPA does not pose a risk to human health because consumers consume significantly less bisphenol A than the amounts that would be harmful to health. This report is highly controversial. If you don't want to absorb unnecessary chemicals with your food, you should opt for fresh food as often as possible and ignore the can.

The highly controversial substance bisphenol-A is in cans and from there it can get into food and ultimately into our body. It is believed that BPA has an impact on development and fertility.

Salt, sugar and fat: what goes with vegetables and fruits in the can?

When it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, we know that there is nothing else in it. In the case of canned food, it is worth taking a look at the back: vegetables are often preserved in salt water, fruit mostly in sugar water. Both are substances that we should not ingest in too large quantities, because they can be harmful to our health. Hidden sugar in particular leads to obesity and diabetes. If we consume too much salt, it can negatively affect our blood pressure.

Canned fish is often pickled in oil, which also has calories. Also pay attention to which oil it is. It is better to avoid canned sunflower oil and use cans of olive or rapeseed oil instead. Because with these oils the fatty acid profile is much better for our health.

When it comes to canned food, it is worth taking a look at the packaging, as salt or sugar is almost always added. We quickly ingest too much of both without being noticed.

Healthier alternatives

The bad reputation of canned food is not entirely unfounded, so it makes sense to look for alternatives. We should give priority to fresh products whenever possible, because they are more natural, contain no preservatives and are guaranteed to be free of BPA.

For stocks, it is better to use frozen products than canned food, because these contain more vitamins and are not put in salt or sugar water. If the freezer compartment is too small, there are also fruit and vegetables in jars and these do not contain any BPA. Glass preserves in particular are a good alternative to fresh foods in emergency situations, because they contain as many vitamins as possible when stored in the dark, can be kept for several years, do not require energy for storage and no critical substances can be transferred from the preserves to the food.

Also read:Fresh, frozen or canned: which foods are the healthiest?

Incidentally, there is another way of preserving legumes, namely drying. Chickpeas, lentils and beans can also be stored dry for several months or years. Soak them in water for about 12 hours before consumption, boil them and you can benefit from the valuable nutrients.

Canned foods have only a small loss of vitamins, but there are healthier alternatives for longer storage, such as frozen products or canned glass.

Knowledge to take away

Canned foods were once a major advancement in canning. Contrary to popular belief, many vitamins are retained in fruits and vegetables. However, health concerns are raised by BPA and the salt and sugar content in the canned food. However, there are many other alternatives that we can fall back on when we don't have fresh produce at home.