Like many Americans, I have always had a place in my kitchen pantry for canned goods and figured the ones I stocked were “healthy” choices. After all, how bad could organic vegetables or beans be?
There really are things to love about “healthy” canned foods:
- Perishables become non-perishable
- Minimal food prep is required (often warming up is all that is needed)
- Stretches out time between shopping trips. Bare fridge? No problem – I’m sure there is something in the pantry we can eat.
- Not to mention… Endless craft opportunities with the cleaned out cans!
But here’s the thing: as I’ve said before, most convenience items are too good to be true. Behind the pros are often overlooked cons. For instance, discovering the secret behind how perishable items can magically become non-perishable.
The naked truth? Canned goods are cheap and easy, but rarely are they truly the healthy option. Here’s why:
- BpA-lined packaging. Ok, ok, nearly everything nowadays is packaged in something toxic. We can’t avoid it all! BUT, canned food is certainly a biggie to consider based on the facts that:
- Citric foods are known to leach chemicals more & most canned goods are either citrusy (ie tomatoes) or contain citric acids to preserve them.
- The whole concept behind a non-perishable item is that it can sit for long periods of time. Leaching opportunities are also increased by time.
- Cans are often purchased by consumers in bulk & stored in garages or out-of-the-way places that facilitate more extreme temperature fluctuation (and, you got it – extreme temperature fluctuation also increases the potential for chemical leaching).
- Additives. Check out this hefty (and I mean HEFTY) list of additives and ingredients provided by the FDA. “Processed” canned foods (i.e. spaghettios or chicken noodle soup) include many “additives,” preservatives, flavorings, and substitues that would not be found in their “fresh” form. But even the more “natural” canned foods like corn or green beans can include things like (a) high sodium content, (b) citric acids, which I already mentioned enhances chemical leaching, or (c) sugars to hold a longer shelf life.
- Preparation methods. As our family has learned more about nutrition, certain traditional methods of preparing foods have become important to us. With beans in particular (a commonly stocked canned good), we prefer to pre-soak them in an appropriate solution before cooking to reduce Phytic acid and lectins. Canned foods have already been prepared, and this gives less control to the consumer over the methods that are used and the resulted nutrition.
- Heavy metals found within. With improper canning methods or poor packaging, cans can things like mercury, lead, tin, cadmium, and aresenic into the food. In addition, canned tuna has specifically given great cause for concern. This study found the same 5 heavy metals lurking in 22 cans of tuna.
The bottom line:
I’d still rather be reaching for a can of organic black beans to throw a quick meal together with than driving through Taco Bell on a rushed day, hands down. Equally, I’d encourage my readers to opt for “healthy” canned goods over other easy “unhealthy” options. HOWEVER, I think we can do better than that. In fact, I think we can keep on the cheep-and-easy bandwagon while still avoiding those canned good toxins, and you know I stand for cheap, easy, & non-toxic!!
- Pre-soaking, cooking & freezing dry beans is an extremely simple process that can cost even less than the canned version.
- Stewing tomatoes at home & freezing them can be done in bulk in half an hour! Seriously though, do it!!! Save yourself the leaching and enjoy the most flavorful “canned” tomatoes you’ll ever have!
- Organic frozen fruit & veggies are a cheap & easy alternative and can be purchased everywhere from Ralph’s to Costco to Whole Foods. Truth be told, nutritional value of frozen veggies not only stays comparable to that of fresh, but sometimes even exceeds it!
Have a healthy weekend!
This post is part of my “Farewell” Friday series.