Is Fresh Food Healthier Than Canned Food?

Posted March 10, 2009 in Your Questions 3 Comments »
Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.

Rav wrote:

“I have a question regarding canned beans. Is it there any difference in the nutrient content between canned beans and soaking the beans yourself and cooking them?”


For quite a while now health myths have propagated throughout our society. One prominent myth is that canned food is not as good for you as fresh food. In fact, this is not true.

Part of the theory is that some fruits and vegetables are cooked at high heat before being canned, and many nutritionists assume this processing degrades all their vitamin, mineral, and fiber content.

The reality is that while nutrients such as vitamin C are damaged by heat, some studies have found that several canned foods are actually equal in nutritional value to their frozen and fresh varieties, and in some cases canned foods are actually far better for you than fresh foods.

The Fresh Produce Timeline

Canned foods are often harvested and processed within 2-4 hours, capturing their nutrients, while fresh foods are not often all that fresh.

Consider this timeline from harvest to kitchen table:

  1. Most of the time after harvest domestic food spends several days being sorted and packaged.
  2. Refrigeration trucks then take several more days to deliver the product to a distribution center.
  3. The produce sits around for a couple days before being shipped to the store.
  4. Upon arriving at a store the food can still potentially sit around for a week or more before it is sold.
  5. Once you buy it and bring it home, how long does it take you to eat it? 2 days? 4 days? More?…

Fluctuations in temperature, exposure to air and light, and time rob the produce of nutrients along the way to your mouth.

Black Beans
Black Beans

Canned Food Is Still Good For You

For example, canned pumpkin has 20 times as much vitamin A as fresh pumpkin because the intense heat of canning breaks the fruit’s beta carotene away from the protein to which it is normally bound. This makes it easier for the body to absorb, beta carotene being a precursor to vitamin a.

Canned Beans vs. Home Cooked Beans

As far as the canned beans go, they match home-cooked beans in terms of fiber and nutrients. Additionally, if you add canned bean to any of your favorite recipes, you should consider including the liquid or at least not rinsing the beans, since the liquid does contain some of the beans’ minerals, thiamin, and soluble fiber.

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