Canned food myths debunked
In a world of foodies obsessed with fresher produce and proteins, over the past three decades, canned tuna sales have been declining steadily and the industry is fighting to stay relevant. According to a 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), canned tuna sales have dropped 42 percent in that time.
Over the past few years, processed foods have been placed under increasing scrutiny for being unhealthy — with items like canned soups, lunch meats and instant noodles (which are all traditionally higher in sodium) suffering in sales.
Newer, popular diets from paleo to raw vegan have also placed more emphasis on eschewing processed and packaged foods for fresh produce.
Not all canned foods are created equal. It’s always a good idea to read the labels. But here are some common myths we’re about to debunk.
Myth #1: Canned foods are not as healthy as fresh foods
Fresh foods, once harvested, have a finite shelf life. Plus, once fruit or vegetables are picked, their vitamin and mineral content decreases each day that they are not consumed. Many canned foods are picked and processed on the same day, helping to retain nutrients at their peak and lock them in for many months. Also, according to the Hy-Vee supermarket chain, sometimes canned foods are packed with additional nutrients, such as increased lycopene in canned tomatoes.
Myth #2: Canned foods are full of preservatives
The perception that canned foods are "processed" foods often leads people to believe they're full of unsavory ingredients. The term processing is used to describe any food that has been changed from its natural form. So removing corn from a cob counts as processing, as is baking or boiling potatoes. Canned foods are preserved by heating the items and sealing them under pressure. No other preservatives are needed to keep them fresh.
Myth #3: Can linings are dangerous
There has been controversy concerning BPA-containing plastics for many years. Even though the Food and Drug Administration, as well as other international food safety agencies, has evaluated the extensive body of science and continue to affirm BPA's safety in food packaging, some manufacturers are voluntarily moving away from it. Consumers can find many foods packed in cans with non-BPA linings. However, even foods packaged in BPA are considered safe for consumption.
Myth #4: Canned foods are full of sodium
Some canned foods will contain salt as an added ingredient to improve taste and act as a freshness preservative. But canned foods do not rank among the biggest offenders in regard to excessive amounts of sodium. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that identified the top 10 food categories that contribute to high sodium diets. Pizza, cured meats, cold cuts, and rolls made the list, while canned foods did not.
Myth #5: Canned foods do not taste good
Because foods are canned when they are at peak freshness and ripeness after harvest, they retain full flavor if properly stored.
Myth #6: All dented cans are unsafe
Cans can become dented in transit. Drop a can and it will dent. But that doesn't necessarily mean foods inside dented cans are unsafe to eat. If a can is bulging or if the top or bottom of the can moves or makes a popping sound, the seal has probably been broken or compromised by bacteria and should be thrown out.
Canned foods are safe and can make for valuable additions to any pantry.