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Wednesday, March 25, 2009 • Posted March 25, 2009

Canned Foods

People often ask me if canned foods are as nutritious as fresh or frozen foods. Yes! Canned food can be much more affordable than fresh foods, and it’s very convenient to have them on hand for quick, low cost meals. Research has found that nutritionally speaking, canned food is comparable to its cooked fresh and frozen counterparts. The key word here is cooked- eating fruits and veggies fresh or quick frozen and defrosted but still raw (like you might do with fruit) will have a little more nutrition, but I say you should eat as many as you can, no matter what form they are in.

To get the most from your food budget, stock up on canned fruits vegetables and soups when they are on sale. Buy cans that are in good shape and free of dents. Bulging cans are a sign of possible spoilage or contamination. Be sure to practice the rule, FIRST IN, FIRST OUT. This means you use the oldest products first.

A good practice in the home is to place the newly purchased cans in back of the same products already on the shelf. The best temperature for storing canned foods is between 50 degrees and 70 degrees Farenheit. Avoid storing canned foods in a warm place near hot pipes, a range or furnace, or in direct sunlight. Keep canned goods dry to prevent cans or metal lids from rusting, which may cause cans to leak and food to spoil.

Many canned foods now have a “for best quality use by” date stamped on the top or bottom of the can. If in doubt over how old a food is, call the company’s toll-free number (if listed on the can) or write to the address on the can.

Healthier varieties of your favorite canned foods are being offered in many stores. Read labels carefully and choose fruits packed in natural juices or water, without added sugar. Good choices include pineapple in natural juice and unsweetened applesauce. Products with heavy or even light syrup have added sugar, which means more calories. Select 'no salt added' canned foods to reduce your sodium intake. If you are unable to find 'no salt added' canned foods in your store, consider rinsing and draining higher sodium foods, such as tuna, salmon, beans and vegetables to eliminate some salt.

Top picks for canned foods

Salmon: Each 3-ounce serving provides almost 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. According to numerous studies, these fats reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heartdisease, Alzheimer's, cancer, and arthritis. A serving of salmon also contains about 35 percent of the Daily Value for protein, along with a good amount of calcium. Use canned salmon as you would tuna—as a sandwich filling or mixed into salads and casseroles. (nutritiondata.com and alaskaseafood.org)

Pumpkin: Canned pumpkin packs 20 times the beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body) as fresh because of its lower water content (mealtime.org). A half-cup serving of canned pumpkin suppliesa staggering 300 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A from beta-carotene. Carotenoids such as beta-carotene act as antioxidants that protect you from cancer, heart disease, and other age-related conditions. Use canned pumpkin in pies, muffins, quick breads, or puddings. For a quick and tasty dessert, you can top it with a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon then heat in the microwave for a minute. Something else I often fix, especially for kids, are butter pecan pumpkin muffins. Just combine a Butter Pecan cake mix with a regular sized can of pumpkin and spoon it into muffin tins. The batter will be thick. Bake according to the mix directions, and hello moist muffins (they are a little heavy though). Butter pecan is my favorite with the pumpkin, but you can try any kind of cake mix you like.

Refried beans: “Refried” simply means pinto beans (or black beans in some cases) are cooked, mashed, and then cooked again. While some fat may be added in the process, the overall fat content is usually low, and some companies are now offering low fat or fat free varieties as well. Each half-cup serving provides more than 25 percent of the Daily Value for fiber along with a good dose of protein and iron. Spoon refried beans into burritos, or make Mexican lasagna by layering beans with whole-grain corn tortillas, diced chilies or peppers, and top it all off with low-fat cheese.

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