Is Canned Food Safe?

By Sara Butler

You’ve probably read many an article stating that the most nutritious foods are those that are fresh or frozen – but where do canned foods fit into the picture? More important, are foods stored in cans on the shelf at your grocery store safe to eat, or do chemicals from the can leach into the food? Here’s what you need to know about canned foods and how they can fit into your diet.

Canned Food: What is it?

If canned foods are going to be discussed in detail that means they need to be defined. Canned foods are preserved through a process called canning. Canning has been around since the late 18th century as a way to provide food to sailors and soldiers on the battlefield.

While the process of canning may differ slightly from one product to the next, in general, it has three basic steps. First, the food is peeled, chopped, pitted, sliced, boned or cooked -- whatever it requires. Then the food is sealed in cans that are heated to kill bacteria and help prevent spoiling.

Through canning, food can be stored for one to five years.

The Nutrient Impact

Most people think canned food isn’t as nutritious as frozen or fresh food, but that’s not always the case. Fat, carbohydrates, and protein are not impacted by the canning process. Fat-soluble vitamins and minerals are also not impacted. The problem with canning is the high heat used can destroy water-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B.

One of the more curious effects of canning is that some compounds in food can increase. Corn and tomatoes are a great example since they release antioxidants when heated. Overall the nutrients of canned foods are comparable to foods preserved through freezing or fresh food.

What About BPA?

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical used in creating food packagings, such as cans and plastic. There have been studies showing the BPA from canned food can leach into the food. Many studies have also shown canned foods to be the leading cause of exposure to BPA.

BPA exposure may be linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, so while the nutrients of canned foods may be OK you should limit how many canned foods you eat if you’re concerned about BPA exposure.

In the end, if you don’t have access to fresh or frozen foods then canned food is a viable alternative. They are nutritious and convenient, but they can also be unhealthy for you due to BPA. So, make sure you choose wisely when eating canned foods!

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