How To Choose Canned Goods Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

With all our energy and focus directed at social distancing, proper health, hygiene and disinfecting or cleaning in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, many of us have forgotten about one essential thing: what and how we should eat.

Among the many types of food that we should stock up on during home quarantine are canned non-perishable foods that are enough to last for two weeks. Though most tend to be unhealthy, there are exceptions. The key is to find the best options to pick, along with tips on how to choose them.

When Are Canned Goods Bad?

Watch out for canned goods that contain multiple ingredients, such as ready-made soups and pastas. They are some of the most popular items, but often contain high amounts of sodium and sugar. Canned soups, in particular, contain 2,175 milligrams of sodium, which is dangerously near the recommended sodium intake of 2,300 mg.

"(Sodium and sugar) are not inherently unhealthy, but sometimes there is an excessive amount of salt/sugar added to canned food. Check the nutrition label and find one closer to 5 percent sodium or added sugar per serving," Jessi Holden, from Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, said.

You should also avoid canned fruits and vegetables packed with brine or syrup, especially if they are skinned or peeled. Instead, focus on those packed with water or in its own juice.

A 2014 study, published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, found that these tend to lose phenolic compounds that are responsible for the color, flavors and some of the health properties in produce, which include antioxidants. It also found that the canning process reduces the content of water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins B and C. In the case of vitamin C, these losses range from 8 (for canned beets) to 90 percent (for canned carrots). However, these vitamin losses are caused by heat, and would have occurred anyway if fresh and cooked. Even storing fresh produce in the refrigerator for a few days could cause similar vitamin losses.

Finally, check on the cans' bisphenol (BPA) levels. BPA can contaminate the food stored inside cans, and is shown by multiple studies to have potentially toxic effects, including DNA damage, tumor formation and hormonal defects. That said, up to 90 percent of cans used for food are BPA-free, and the FDA has determined that the current levels found in canned goods are present at safe levels.

When Can Canned Goods Be Healthy?

Choose canned goods that contain only a single item. 

Tuna, for example, contains only 4 percent of your recommended daily sodium intake and no added sugar in a 172-gram can after it has been drained. The highest seller among canned goods, it is packed with 20 grams of protein, as well as healthy doses of vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and zinc. These all aid in everything from immune function to proper growth and development. Canned goods also often contain fat-soluble vitamins, which are not damaged in the heating process. 

Tomatoes are also good canned good options. These have higher levels of carotenoids than they do when fresh, owing to canning's heating process, which releases more of the pigment. Responsible for vegetables' red and yellow colors, carotenoids have been found by numerous studies to reduce risk of degenerative diseases. 

Other foods such as green beans and corn are good for purchase in cans because, according to the 2014 study, they are as nutritious as their fresh and frozen counterparts. 

A lot of canned produce have a lower cost per cup compared to frozen and fresh ones. And their nutritional value does not decline over time like it does for fresh produce, even if stored in the pantry for a year or two.

canned goods Amid the coronavirus outbreak, it is good to know that not all canned goods are unhealthy. monicore / Pixabay

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