Q: I have been trying to eat better and previously used a lot of canned fruits and vegetables. I know that canned foods aren’t as good as fresh and that they are high in salt and sugar, but is it OK for me to eat these foods occasionally so that I don’t have to waste what I have on hand?
A: Back in the 18th century, canning began its evolution when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte issued a challenge for someone to come up with a safe way to preserve food in quantity to feed his troops. Hundreds of years later, canned food is a part of everyday life.
In the canning process, food is sealed into an airtight, cleaned and sterilized container using heat to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that cause food to spoil. Over the years, the processing conditions have been dramatically refined so the best texture, greatest flavor and maximum nutrition are retained in canned foods.
Myths about canned foods are abundant. Here is some “food for thought” to help reveal the truths:
■ Myth No. 1: Canned food is high in sodium.
Fact: No sodium (or other preservative) is needed to make canned food safe. Salt is added simply to enhance the taste of a particular food. In fact, “no sodium” and “low sodium” options are readily available for many products. Draining and rinsing canned food before use reduces sodium levels up to 40 percent according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Look for products with “no salt added” such as tomatoes, canned vegetables and beans.
■ Myth No. 2: All canned fruit is high in sugar.
Fact: Besides those fruits canned with heavy and light syrups made with added sugar, many canned fruits are available packed in their own juice or water. Just as with rinsing added sodium from vegetables, rinsing fruit before serving can reduce the amount of added sugar.