by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© February 2013, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Many people eat canned food, and for some years I believed this was not healthy food at all. However, I have come to realize that a small amount of good quality canned food can have an important place in our diets today.
In fact, canning is a traditional means of preserving food that is still an important method used around the world. While fresh food is usually best, and frozen food is also better than canned food in some cases, in other cases canned food is best. It is also much better than living on poor quality food from fast food restaurants, for example. This article discusses which canned foods are best, and which are best avoided.
ADVANTAGES OF SOME QUALITY CANNED FOODS
Canned foods can have some important advantages that help make them desirable to eat.
1. Clean and safe, provided that the can is not dented and the can is not past its expiration date. In fact, I do not suggest eating canned food that is over 6 months old, regardless of its expiration date.
2. Fast and convenient. For example, it is excellent for those who cannot cook for some reason such as age or disability. It is also ok in an emergency or if you are pressed for time, although it is definitely best to give yourself time to cook and eat properly.
3. Less costly in some cases.
4. Portable and easy to store. Canned foods keep well up to about 6 months, and they travel well. For some people, this is important.
5. Good for emergency storage food. It is nice to have something on hand if the power goes out, for example, or you are unable to get to a supermarket.
6. May be better than fresh in some cases, although that may seem amazing. For example, some foods are hard to obtain fresh, such as sardines and some vegetables. Some “fresh” food is picked long before it is ripe, shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, and then it may sit on a supermarket shelf for days before it reaches you.
CAUTIONS WITH CANNED FOODS
1. Freshness. You must check the expiration date on all canned food. Technically, supermarkets are not permitted to sell outdated food items, but one should check to be sure.
2. Safety. Do not buy or eat anything in a can if the can is dented, and definitely avoid any canned item if the can seems bloated, or too expanded. It is likely contaminated with serious bacteria or other pathogens. Also, ideally do not store a half eaten can in the refrigerator. Empty the contents into another container. Lead soldered cans used to be a problem, but today most are crimped. Avoid lead soldered cans. Aluminum or steel cans are okay when coated, as most are today.
3. No control over manufacturing. One cannot be sure of the ingredients or manufacturing process with any processed food such as canned, frozen, or others. So be sure to buy a brand you trust, as this is your best guarantee of quality.
4. Moderation. I do not suggest living on canned foods more than every other day, for example. In fact, less is better if you can have fresh food.
WHICH CANNED FOODS ARE BEST AND WHICH TO AVOID
Canned foods that may be high quality products include:
1. Sardines, and also herring, anchovies, and salmon. However, the latter three are less recommended than sardines. Sardines are cooked and canned right after they are caught. They are as fresh as possible, thanks to canning.
2. Organic beans, split peas and lentils. While fresh cooked is best, canned organic beans, peas and lentils are not bad foods once in a while.
3. Some vegetables, although frozen and fresh are often better. These include carrots, peas and green beans. The others are less recommended.
4. High quality or organic soups, particularly vegetable soups. Some of these are quite good and found at health food stores and some supermarkets.
Canned foods I suggest avoiding include:
1. Most canned meats, canned egg dishes, or canned cheese dishes. These foods do not keep as well in a can, in general.
2. Any canned item that contains fruit, or a lot of sugar, wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, pork, ham, tunafish, shellfish, seafood or other foods we do not recommend.
3. Canned processed and refined foods. This includes processed meats such as Spam, sausage and some others.