As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been forced to cook at home using pantry staples and nonperishable goods for months. Convenient, affordable and easy to stock for long periods of time, canned foods help solve many cooking and shopping problems especially in an era where people outside those in their own households are not supposed to be physically near one another to avoid contact with the virus.
Their role in health, however, is less clear. In fact, there are various opinions over the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of these products. According to Asher Adelman, nutritional therapy practitioner and CEO of Life Health & Wellness Center, canned foods should be treated like any other kind of food. “When shopping for canned foods, the best choices are real whole foods that aren’t processed and that don’t contain refined grains, sugar or inflammatory vegetable oils like corn, canola and soybean oils,” Adelman told CNET.
Reading food labels helps when searching for canned goods since many of these can contain health-harming BPAs. Still, if you want to be totally assured nutrition-wise amid the pandemic, then below is a list of best and worst canned foods that you can stock up at home (or donate), according to nutritionists and other nutrition experts:
Registered nutritionist Gabrielle McGrath of Lexi’s Clean Living said that canned pumpkin is great for its range of health benefits. Both plain and canned pumpkin puree (with no other additives) contain nutrients and antioxidants that can boost your immunity as well as protect your eyesight and lower risk of diseases. Just make sure you search for those that has only “organic pumpkin” in the list of ingredients.
High-Quality Protein Sources
Although most canned goods contain high amounts of sodium, certified nutrition therapy practitioner Haley Halteman noted that high quality canned chicken, salmon, tuna and sardines are great options for quick, high-protein meals. She advised choosing brands that are “organic, (…) pasture-raised or wild-caught sources” that are “packaged in water, with no salt added.”
Various Canned Vegetables
Even with a plethora of healthy options available in your local supermarket’s canned vegetable section, registered dietitian Jen Hernandez encourages you to focus only on those that you will actually eat. Her favorites are canned corn, green beans and peas, all of which are best low-sodium, no-added-salt options.
Canned Diced Tomatoes
The citric acid and calcium chloride found in canned tomatoes are nothing to be concerned about, according to McGrath, who regularly stocks canned diced tomatoes in her kitchen for use in making chilis, soups and tomato sauces.
Canned Beans And Lentils
For registered dietitian Bri Bell, canned beans and lentils are great additions to your pantry. Packed with protein, fiber and carbohydrates, these healthy legumes can be added to everything from soups and chilis to salads. Just make sure you avoid those with added salt.
Canned beans in general are seen as healthy by many nutritionists, but McGrath is cautious about buying baked beans in a can. She said that canned baked beans are often loaded with saturated fat, sugar and other unnecessary additives.
Although canned soups are great mood boosters, many of these are not nutritionist-approved. Hernandez said that canned soups are a “no-no” for her, adding that they often have more than a day’s worth of sodium and “don’t taste as good as homemade.”
Syrup-Filled Canned Fruits
Some canned fruits can serve as healthy snacks or add-ons to yogurt or oatmeal. However, nutritionist Lisa Richards noted that many branded packaged fruits contain syrup. Syrup itself helps retain the fruit’s sweetness but it is also high in added sugar, which can increase inflammation, contributing to poor gut health.
Canned pastas and other ready-made meals can be convenient to eat in moderation but are not exactly good as far as health is concerned. Their high preservative, additive, salt and sugar content make them among the worst options in the canned food category, according to registered dietitian Sofia Norton of Kiss My Keto.