Canned vegetables are a convenient way to get pre-cooked vegetables ready to eat and use in recipes. However, there are a number of myths surrounding vegetables that are canned and some of these can impact your health. You may find that it's best to reach for the canned variety of vegetables only in moderation, especially when frozen vegetables offer similar convenience and are more nutritious.
1. Myth: Canned Is as Nutritious as Fresh or Frozen Veggies
Fact: Canned vegetables are actually the least nutritious variety of vegetables. While canned veggies are not completely devoid of nutrition, some of the nutrients will have disappeared following the heating process. In other words, eating canned veggies is better than not eating vegetables at all, but when fresh and frozen varieties are available, you're not getting the maximum nutrition possible.
However, that's not to say that all canned veggies have less nutrition. Just think of the veggies that you would otherwise cook before eating (beans, pumpkin, etc.) and the fact that the canned variety is already cooked will make little difference, nutritionally. In fact, it can save you a lot of time during which you'd spend cooking the veggies yourself.
2. Myth: All Canned Veggies Are Healthy
Fact: While few canned vegetables are outright unhealthy, you have to be careful to watch the nutrition labels. Many manufacturers add high amounts of sodium and other chemicals in order to preserve the vegetables. Ingesting high amounts of sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney stones, osteoporosis and stomach disorders. Less serious side effects include excessive thirst, headaches, puffy undereyes and cravings for high-calorie foods.
While some small amounts of sodium can be beneficial for your health, there's too much sodium in processed foods and on average, people are ingesting way too much sodium. Cut back on sodium when you can, and opting for fresh or frozen vegetables over canned vegetables is one easy place to start. You can also search for canned veggies without any added sodium or preservatives. Canned pumpkin, for example, is typically preservative-free.
3. Myth: Canned Veggies Never Go Bad
Fact: Canned vegetables have a much longer shelf life than many foods, thanks largely to the preservatives and the sealed environment in which they are stored. They also make excellent "non-perishable" donations because of their long shelf lives. However, canned veggies have an expiration date printed on the top or bottom of the can that is typically several years after their manufacturing date. Usually you can still safely ingest the canned good within a few weeks or even months of the expiration date, but to be safe, it's best to toss out any vegetables that are more than a month beyond the expiration date. Although the oxygen-less environment of a can is not as hospitable for bacteria as the open air, minute amounts of bacteria can still thrive over time and make the food unsafe to eat.