No one can deny the beauty of the native tomato. Yet in feeding a hungry world, canned fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh or frozen produce, and in some cases even better, according to a new study

Researchers at Michigan State University found that canned tomatoes deliver more B vitamins as well as lycopene, a carotene loosely tied to a lowered cancer risk. The canning process also makes fiber more soluble in vegetables such as beans, providing a value-added for the food staple.

Canned vegetables offer consumers a more affordable option at 20 percent of the cost of fresh vegetables — and half as much as frozen.

“Canned fruits and vegetables provide high quality nutrition to Americans regardless of income level and geography,” researcher Steven Miller said in a statement. “By increasing accessibility to key nutrients many Americans need, canned foods are a year-round solution to help families prepare healthier, balanced meals.”

The researchers analyed the nutritional value of eight common vegetables and 10 fruits, comparing fresh, frozen, and canned. Vegetables delivered the same nutritional value no matter the packaging, with canned vegetables offering the best value for the money, when considering cost.

“The evidence from this study suggests that fruits and vegetables packaged as frozen or canned are cost-effective and nutritious options for meeting daily vegetable and fruit recommendations in the context of a healthy diet,” Miller and his colleagues wrote in the study.

As the world population grows, canned fruits and vegetables may provide cheaper and safer access to healthy food, they concluded. Aside from saving on the grocery budget, the high-heat canning process provides the safest means of preserving foods as microorganisms responsible for causing foodborne illnesses are killed instantaneously. Such illnesses send 127,000 Americans to the emergency room every year.

Still, experts say that canned foods high in salt may not be appropriate for some people.

Source: Miller, Steven R., Knudson, William A. Nutrition And Cost comparisons Of Select Canned, Frozen, And Fresh Fruits And Vegetables. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2014.