Fresh or frozen food, as many people believe, is nutritionally better than canned foods. Some nutritionists, however, contend that in a lot of cases canned foods are equally as nutritious; perhaps even more so. To support their contention, they enumerated these examples: Canned tomatoes have as much lycopene (a carotenoid pigment that acts as an antioxidant and protects the body from the so-called “free radicals” that cause cancer) as fresh ones; canned purple plums and pumpkin contain more vitamin A than fresh varieties (inasmuch as they are picked at their peak and processed immediately); and canned sardines and salmon contain calcium-rich edible bones.
But canned foods have disadvantages, too. Nutritionists point out that the amounts of nutrients that are sensitive to heat (examples: folic acid and vitamin C) are substantially reduced during the canning process. Canners, likewise, are known to often use too much sugar and sodium. An example of this is chili that is made with canned tomatoes and beans; this can have more than double the amount of sodium compared to chili made with fresh tomatoes and dried beans.
Just the same, most nutritionists say that the all-important fiber, minerals, and vitamins are retained in cans. When used wisely, canned foods can provide the nutritionists’ recommended daily quota of vegetables and fruits. Some tips have been provided by nutritionists to help us get the best out of canned foods and maximize the nutrition in them. Foremost of these is that we should always take a look at what are on the labels; we have to opt for fruits in natural juices, tuna packed in water, or products that are low in sodium, sugar, and fat levels.
Packing liquids are rich in vitamins; you can add vegetable liquids to soups, or drink the juice from fruit preserves. Skim fat from the top of stews and soups; instead of whole milk, use skim milk to mix with cream soups. Avoid overcooking; to ensure that more vitamins are retained, just reheat food. Finally, home-canned foods should be stored for no more than a year, while commercially-canned foods must stay on the shelf for no more than a couple of years, with the exception of foods that are high in acid, such as sauerkraut and tomatoes.
Still, there is that ever-present concern on botulism, and improperly sealed home-canned foods are the usual suspects. On the other hand, commercially-canned foods are, to the least extent, without risk. Of course, these have to be in good condition. Therefore, any can that is dented, leaks, or bulges should be discarded. Food that smells odd, is bubbly, moldy, or shriveled should be junked. Accidentally eating bad food can result to your experiencing certain conditions, such as headache, blurred vision, muscle weakness, or even paralysis; seek medical help at once if this happens.
To avoid botulism in home canning, use proper methods. For example, expert home canners use a pressure canner which reaches temperatures of as high as 116 degrees Celsius (240 degrees Fahrenheit). At this degree of hotness, botulin toxins are certain to be destroyed. Also, know that vegetables, meats, and foods low in acid are at a higher risk for botulism. Canned foods should always be stored in a dry, dark, cool area. Lastly, know that it is virtually harmless to refrigerate leftovers in most cans. However, they will remain fresher in tightly sealed containers since these restrict exposure to air.