When you hear anything on proper nutrition, fresh fruit and vegetables are always part of that message. But for many, fresh produce is not always available, or affordable. But what about canned and frozen produce? A recent study shows that canned and frozen are a nutritious and cost effective option, and need to be included in the choices for those families looking to prepare healthy meals.
Are there downsides - sure, some canned foods may have higher sodium levels. There are also impacts on some of the heat sensitive vitamins and other bioactive components....but these will also be impacted by the consumer's handling and preparation practices. However, in a world where the food dollar does not go as far, and we look to become more sustainable, canned and frozen produce are important options.
Canned Fruits And Vegetables May Be As Nutritious As Their Fresh Counterparts
By Matthew Mientka | Mar 8, 2014 01:30 PM EDT
No one can deny the beauty of the native tomato. Yet in feeding a hungry world, canned fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh or frozen produce, and in some cases even better, according to a new study.
Researchers at Michigan State University found that canned tomatoes deliver more B vitamins as well as lycopene, a carotene loosely tied to a lowered cancer risk. The canning process also makes fiber more soluble in vegetables such as beans, providing a value-added for the food staple.
Canned vegetables offer consumers a more affordable option at 20 percent of the cost of fresh vegetables — and half as much as frozen.
“Canned fruits and vegetables provide high quality nutrition to Americans regardless of income level and geography,” researcher Steven Miller said in a statement. “By increasing accessibility to key nutrients many Americans need, canned foods are a year-round solution to help families prepare healthier, balanced meals.”
The researchers analyed the nutritional value of eight common vegetables and 10 fruits, comparing fresh, frozen, and canned. Vegetables delivered the same nutritional value no matter the packaging, with canned vegetables offering the best value for the money, when considering cost.
“The evidence from this study suggests that fruits and vegetables packaged as frozen or canned are cost-effective and nutritious options for meeting daily vegetable and fruit recommendations in the context of a healthy diet,” Miller and his colleagues wrote in the study.
As the world population grows, canned fruits and vegetables may provide cheaper and safer access to healthy food, they concluded. Aside from saving on the grocery budget, the high-heat canning process provides the safest means of preserving foods as microorganisms responsible for causing foodborne illnesses are killed instantaneously. Such illnesses send 127,000 Americans to the emergency room every year.
Still, experts say that canned foods high in salt may not be appropriate for some people.
Source: Miller, Steven R., Knudson, William A. Nutrition And Cost comparisons Of Select Canned, Frozen, And Fresh Fruits And Vegetables. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2014.
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine
Nutrition and Cost Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen, and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Steven R. Miller, PhD
William A. Knudson, PhD
Center for Economic Analysis, East Lansing, MI (SRM)
MSU Product Center, East Lansing, Michigan (WAK)
Steven R. Miller, Center for Economic Analysis, 446 W Circle Drive, Room 202, East Lansing, MI 48824-1039; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A common call to action for addressing public health concerns of both obesity and hunger is improving access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Previous research has examined the nutritional merits of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables. However, there are limited data on the cost-effectiveness of fresh compared with processed—that is, canned and frozen—food. This study examined the nutrition delivered in 8 common vegetables and 10 common fruits across multiple packaging options (fresh, frozen, and canned) relative to average costs. A method of scoring based on nutrient intake recommendations was used to calculate the nutrients per calorie, and average costs were obtained from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Nutrient scores for the vegetables were similar across the 3 packaging options, whereas canned vegetables had a lower cost per edible cup compared with frozen and fresh. Nutrient scores were variable for the fruits across the 3 packaging options, and canned fruits were either lower or comparably priced per edible cup. The evidence from this study suggests that fruits and vegetables packaged as frozen or canned are cost-effective and nutritious options for meeting daily vegetable and fruit recommendations in the context of a healthy diet.