Nutrition Notes: What’s in a Can?

How are canned foods made? What is the secret behind preventing canned food from getting spoiled?

According to the USDA, canning food is a method of preserving food by heat processing and then sealing foods in an airtight container. This process destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. As the heated canned food cools, a vacuum seal is formed, which prevents entry of new bacteria and keeps the food from spoiling. Salt, sugar, vinegar or oil is also used to help preserve foods for longer periods. Canned foods can have a shelf-life of 1 to 5 years. Did you know that most foods can be safely canned at home, too?

Canned foods can be as nutrient packed as their fresh counterparts. Research has shown that canning produce at peak freshness, and the lack of exposure to oxygen during storage period, helps protect nutrients in canned foods. Levels of some nutrients may be higher in canned food as compared to fresh produce. For example, vitamin C and folate levels were found to be higher in canned peaches compared to fresh peaches in a study conducted by the Oregon State University. On an average, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables processed immediately after harvesting and at their peak nutritional quality may be nutritionally similar to fresh produce. It is important, however, to keep in mind some important guidelines on choosing the healthiest canned food options mentioned in last week’s Nutrition Notes blog post.

Food Safety Tip: Canned food should be used immediately. Any leftovers should be refrigerated, and foods in metal cans should be refrigerated in clean glass or plastic containers to preserve optimum freshness and nutritional quality, and prevent bacterial growth and tin leaching into the food in the can.

Recipe Idea: For a flavorful savory dip, mix canned pumpkin puree with Greek yogurt, coarsely crushed roasted peanuts, chives, paprika and salt. Enjoy with your favorite veggies, crackers or just as is!